Biographies of some of L.A.’s new museum curators


The new curators bring a rich mix of experience and aspirations to their jobs. Here’s a sampling:


Department head and curator of contemporary art at LACMA


A native of New York known as a critic and writer as well as curator of the national traveling exhibition “NeoHooDoo: Art for a Forgotten Faith,” which grappled with ritualistic processes and spirituality in contemporary art, Sirmans came from the Menil collection in Houston, where he was curator of modern and contemporary art. At LACMA, he’ll focus on art made since 1968, but “in the context of an encyclopedic background and tradition,” he says. “It’s not about finding the next thing. It’s about looking closely at the permanent collection and the Broad collection, seeing how they complement each other and exploring the most interesting and innovative ideas.”


Curator and head of the

photography and prints and

drawings departments at LACMA

Former director and chief curator at the Center for Creative Photography at the University of Arizona in Tucson, Salvesen says she was “eager to open out beyond photography and work with colleagues in other areas of specialization” in a region where many institutions are collectively making Los Angeles “the place in the world for photography.” She is overseeing a project intended to expand public access to LACMA’s collections and planning an exhibition from the recently acquired Vernon collection to reveal the spirit and passion behind what she calls “a candy store” of images amassed by the late Leonard and Marjorie Vernon. The L.A. couple built an extraordinary holding of 19th and 20th century masterworks emphasizing West Coast photography.


Chief curator and deputy director of exhibitions and public programs at the Hammer Museum

A veteran of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, Fogle has landed in what he calls “an ideal playground.” “There is always something happening,” he says, “artists and thinkers and curatorial colleagues coming in, an atmosphere of creative banter.” He’s working with senior curator Anne Ellegood on an invita-

tional group show to open in January.


Chief curator and vice president of curatorial affairs at the Museum of Latin American Art

A Venezuelan/British art historian who was born in New Zealand and educated in England, Fajardo-Hill has arrived at an institution bearing the stamp of its eccentric founder, Robert Gumbiner, who made a fortune in managed healthcare and collected Latin American art in proportion to the countries’ populations. “The great thing he did was to leave the museum ready to move on to the next level,” she says. “We will take a more professional approach now.” With the help of Gumbiner’s $25-million endowment, plans call for presenting three or four edgy contemporary projects each year along with at least three major exhibitions and

one or two rotations of the collection.


Curator of African arts at the

Fowler Museum

“The Fowler’s publications created an image in my mind of an institution that was very committed to experimenting

and thinking about African

art in an interesting way,” Rod-

rigues says. “It was the sort of work that I always thought I would love to do myself, so

when the job came up I was

just amazed at my good luck

that it was even a possibility when I was finishing my PhD.” Getting to know the museum and Los Angeles will take a while, but she’s already thinking about subjects to explore, including

the rapidly evolving relationship between Africa and China and artistic avant-garde movements that emerged from Africa’s anti-colonial struggles.

-- Suzanne Muchnic