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Paul Roth, the longtime curator at the Corcoran Gallery of Art who left the institution at the end of 2009 to helm the Richard Avedon Foundation, is back at the Corcoran.
As the museum’s senior curator and director of photography and media arts, Roth returns to his former stomping grounds with expanded responsibilities—though photography and media exhibitions will remain his core focus. Roth came to the Corcoran originally as an assistant curator in 1995; in 2006, he assumed the lead on the museum’s stellar photography program and collection, organizing several critically acclaimed exhibits, including “Richard Avedon: Portraits of Power” in 2008 and “Edward Burtynsky: Oil” In 2009.
In addition, Roth’s new role will see him working closely with the Corcoran College of Art + Design. He says that, in time, he will teach classes in the college and work with students and faculty on collaborative museum projects. “I hope it also evolves to encompass interactions we can’t envision yet, that emerge from an ongoing and closer relationship, and from thinking about how we can do things differently,” Roth says.
Roth’s return follows the departure of Amanda Maddox, who recently left the Corcoran for the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where she is the assistant curator in the photography department. Roth says will work closely with curatorial assistant Kaitlin Booher on new exhibitions, which he will begin proposing soon.
His return will also mean a reunion with Corcoran Chief Curator and Head of Research Philip Brookman—resuming one of the most profitable curatorial collaborations of any Washington museum. “Before leaving the Corcoran, I worked with Philip Brookman for nearly 20 years at two institutions,” Roth says. (The other was the National Gallery of Art.) “I am returning to the place where I’ve spent the better part of my professional life. While there are many people working at the Corcoran that are new to me, a number of my past colleagues are still here…and this was a primary motivation for me in returning.”
Roth joined the Avedon Foundation as executive director at the start of 2010. Ultimately, he says, he missed the work that he left behind: organizing shows, working with teachers and students, and writing about photography. “It was a slowly unfolding recognition that I am, at bottom, a curator,” he says.
“Although I knew it might seem strange to others that I would return to a place I had left, it made sense to me,” Roth says. “And that is because I know that the Corcoran is one of the best places, anywhere in the world, to be a photo curator.”