Kosinski's Path To the Phillips

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Dorothy Kosinski was born 54 years ago in Meriden, Conn., to a father in the restaurant business and a mother who stayed home. She cites youthful Sundays spent in Catholic churches and early work in an older brother's architecture firm as "hugely influential" to her grown-up taste for the aesthetic. (She's married to the Swiss-born architect Thomas Krahenbuhl, who plans to move to Washington but keep his practice going in Dallas. They have a 20-year-old daughter.)

Since starting college, it's been almost a straight shot to where Kosinski is today: academic excellence, some freelance teaching and curating, a job cataloguing the private Douglas Cooper collection of early modern art in Basel -- a city where she spent 12 years -- and then, in 1995, the job as curator of European art at the Dallas Museum of Art, where she really made her mark.

What's most notable in all this is a tendency -- if sometimes camouflaged -- toward sober, even esoteric scholarship. Even when Kosinski organizes a popular, apparently "mainstream" show -- "The Artist and the Camera: Degas to Picasso" -- her catalogue essays can run to topics such as "The Camera in the Context of Symbolist Aesthetics" and "The Aesthetic Theater of Franz von Stuck." Says Kosinski, "I want people to come in the door to take in my subversive art history."

At the Phillips, she brings a specialist's eye to a job that, for the previous 10 years, was held by the cheery Jay Gates, whose career was built around his skills as a manager and fundraiser. (He was the director in Dallas when Kosinski was hired.)

-- Blake Gopnik


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