LACMA curator to head Carnegie Museum of Art


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Lynn Zelevansky, who has become one of the world’s leading curators of contemporary art during her 14-year tenure at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, has been appointed director of the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh. She will assume her new position July 15, succeeding Richard Armstrong, who departed last year and now heads the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation in New York.

‘It’s exciting, but it’s very hard to leave Los Angeles,’ Zelevansky said Thursday afternoon, reached at her office at the Wilshire Boulevard museum. ‘I didn’t think I wanted to be a museum director; I wasn’t looking for a job like that. But I know the city and its longstanding cultural foundation. I think the museum has enormous potential. It hasn’t had a high profile, but I think it can be a real international player, and I would like to try to make that happen.’


The Pittsburgh museum is a venerable institution with a broad collection. But it is best known for its long-running series of ‘Carnegie Internationals,’ a prestigious showcase for contemporary art. Andrew Carnegie dreamed up the idea in 1896, hoping to build a collection of the ‘Old Masters of tomorrow’ by purchasing works for the museum from the invitational exhibitions. Among the first acquisitions were paintings by Winslow Homer, James McNeill Whistler and Camille Pissarro.

Zelevansky is a native of New York who was educated at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh and Pratt Institute and New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, both in Manhattan. She started her career as a university professor of art in New York and launched herself as a curator at the Museum of Modern Art, where she worked for seven years before moving west to join the staff at LACMA.

In Los Angeles, where she heads LACMA’s department of contemporary art, she is known as an authority on the international art scene and the organizer of dozens of exhibitions. ‘Beyond Geometry: Experiments in Form, 1940s to 1970s,’ a benchmark of her career that appeared at LACMA in 2004, won that year’s first place award for best thematic museum show nationally from the U.S. branch of the International Assn. of Art Critics. Her next show will be a major exhibition of contemporary Korean art, opening June 28. But it’s not her last stand at LACMA. That will be a retrospective of Paul Thek’s work in 2011.

--Suzanne Muchnic