Phillips Collection Taps Dallas Curator To Succeed Director

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Dorothy M. Kosinski, a curator and administrator at the sprawling Dallas Museum of Art, has been named director of the Phillips Collection, becoming the third official outside the Phillips family to lead the modern art facility.

A curator at the Dallas museum since 1995, Kosinski heads the department of painting and sculpture. She is a specialist in 19th- and 20th-century art and has written about van Gogh, Duchamp, Rauschenberg, Johns and Courbet and was the project director for "Matisse: Painter as Sculptor," which is at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

"As a modernist, I think going to the Phillips is irresistible," said Kosinski, who will assume her new duties in the spring. "The Phillips in the last 10 years has created a stronger profile in establishing itself as a scholarly center for modern art." Kosinski, 54, has worked in many parts of the museum "machine," from curating to senior management. "The good news is that I discovered I liked looking at the big picture. I like dealing intensively with the people in all the constituencies."

She was selected, said board chairman George Vradenburg, because "of her deep knowledge of the Phillips, its background and founder. She has a clear vision on how to move the collection into the art of the 21st century." Kosinski said she had visited the Phillips frequently over the years, drawn by its collection and coziness.

The Phillips, founded in 1921 in a family mansion near Dupont Circle, has been an intimate destination for admirers of impressionism and modern American and European art. The collection, which includes Renoir, Degas, C¿zanne, Picasso, Monet, O'Keeffe, Rothko and Lawrence, was assembled by founder Duncan Phillips.

"There is a special character because of Duncan Phillips, who had a special mind and eye," Kosinski said. "It is very quirky and fascinating that way. He was interested in a broad range of art, including the art of his time."

Through the Phillips Collection's Center for the Study of Modern Art and other programs, Kosinski wants to continue that exchange and "ignite meaningful dialogues" with today's artists. "I want to tease out the great masterworks with the artistic currents of now," she said. "That is a valid way to maintain the dialogue with the Duncan Phillips collection and not let it be a static collection that needs to be honored."

In recent years the Phillips has undergone extensive physical expansion, doubling in size under the leadership of the current director, Jay Gates. He announced in June that he would be leaving in 2008. Vradenburg said Gates raised the Phillips's international profile, especially through a tour of the museum's masterpieces.

To sustain that progress, Vradenburg said the Phillips has to triple its endowment of $20 million. He said Kosinski had the enthusiasm and skill for a capital campaign. "We decided early on in our search that money would follow passion," he said.

Kosinski, who grew up in Wallingford, Conn., has a bachelor's from Yale University and received her master's and doctorate from New York University. Her first jobs in the museum world were a summer internship and a post as a curatorial assistant at the Guggenheim Museum. After that she worked as a curator at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Conn., and the Douglas Cooper collection, a private collection of cubist work. She has also worked as an independent curator in Wolfsburg, Germany; Basel, Switzerland; and London.

Kosinski's move to the Phillips represents the revival of a trend toward having art scholars lead museums. For the last few years, some museums selected directors who were more skilled in fundraising and marketing. "I have been vehement in my enthusiasm that the curatorial ranks would produce the leadership of tomorrow," Kosinski said.

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