The Walters Art Museum named Julia Marciari-Alexander as its new Executive Director on February 20. Marciari-Alexander brings to the Walters more than 15 years of experience in all aspects of museum operations, including exhibitions, education, community outreach, publications and management, both at the San Diego Museum of Art (SDMA), where she most recently served as the Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs, and at the Yale Center for British Art, where she held the position of Associate Director for Exhibitions and Publications, among other roles. Marciari-Alexander will begin her tenure on April 1.
“Julia Marciari-Alexander not only has excellent academic and institutional credentials, but also a strong history of creative community outreach. She is highly regarded for her collaborative and strategic approach to leadership, and is known for her high energy and her ability to listen and engage,” Ellen Bernard, Walters trustee and chair of the search committee, said. “We were looking for a dynamic leader to enhance our mission of bringing art and people together in Baltimore and beyond through education, exhibitions and innovative uses of technology, and we’ve found that and more in Julia. We can’ t wait to welcome her and her family to Baltimore.”
Marciari-Alexander joined the San Diego Museum of Art in 2008 as the Deputy Director for Curatorial Affairs. She also served as the Interim Co-Director (2009-2010) and Interim Deputy Director for Education (2010-2011). Prior to her work with the SDMA, she spent more than 10 years at the Yale Center for British Art, first as Assistant/Associate Curator of Paintings & Sculpture, followed by Associate Director of Programmatic Affairs and Associate Director for Exhibitions and Publications. During her tenure at the Yale Center for British Art, she also taught numerous courses in the history of art.
Marciari-Alexander replaces Gary Vikan, who is stepping down after more than 27 years of service to the Walters, including 18 years as Executive Director. Among the many transformative strategic initiatives implemented during his tenure was the elimination of the Walters’ general admission fee. The Walters was among the first U.S. museums to do so, resulting in sustained increases in attendance and greater diversity in its audience. This commitment to audience is in keeping with Henry Walters’ intent when, in one of the great philanthropic acts in American history, he gave his vast collection, house and gallery to the city of Baltimore “for the benefit of the public” in 1931. Today, the Walters is a national leader in scholarship, conservation and education, with more than 165,000 visitors annually.
“The Walters is, without question, one of America’s greatest museums, and the opportunity to build upon the strong foundations laid by the Board, Gary Vikan and the staff is a privilege,” said Marciari-Alexander. “As the new Executive Director, it will be my goal to leverage the collection and the professional expertise of staff to strengthen the Walters’ reputation as an international leader in the field of collections development, museum scholarship and community engagement.”
“During an extensive and thorough interview process Julia impressed the search committee with her scholarship, her quick intellect and her ability to engage people in a public forum,” said Douglas Hamilton, Walters Board President. “She is passionate about the public mission of museums, and her enthusiasm is infectious. The board is confident that she is the right person to lead the Walters into the next generation.”
While at the SDMA, Marciari-Alexander oversaw the team that conceived, planned and implemented major reinstallations of every public space within the museum’s galleries, with the goal of creating fresh and innovative visitor experiences with the museum’s permanent collection. On Feb. 9, the SDMA opened its Art of East Asia galleries, the largest renovation of gallery space in over a decade. She also mounted exhibitions with numerous national and international partners, including the Walters Art Museum in 2010.
“For five years, The San Diego Museum of Art has enjoyed and benefitted from Julia Marciari-Alexander’s productive tenure as the deputy director for curatorial affairs,” Roxana Velasquez, Executive Director of the San Diego Museum of Art, said. “She developed strong community support for the institution, oversaw the publications program and coordinated numerous important exhibitions including Behold, America! Art of the United States from Three San Diego Museums and Thomas Gainsborough and the Modern Woman. Her appointment as Executive Director of the Walters Art Museum is an important progression in her career. I am proud and delighted that she has been chosen to lead such a prestigious institution.”
Marciari-Alexander was also instrumental in launching an initiative to publish the SDMA’s collection online, similar to the Walters’ ongoing digital projects. The Walters continues to increase access to its collection and exhibitions by making images of artworks available online for free, inviting audiences to engage with art through online initiatives and collaborating with art partners around the world in the Google Art Project.
In addition to curatorial and scholarly initiatives, Marciari-Alexander also played a critical role in the SDMA’s community outreach and educational programs. She was a founding member of a “Learning Partnership” focused on community, museums and cultural arts that works to create a bridge between Balboa Park and the communities commonly called the Diamond Neighborhoods in Southeastern San Diego. This four-year partnership resulted in the 2012 opening of the Center for Community and Cultural Arts.
An important part of the Walters’ mission is to eliminate barriers and increase access to art through education. Marciari-Alexander will bring her experience in developing innovative community outreach and educational programs to build upon the Walters’ robust educational programming, which currently serves nearly 30,000 families and more than 40,000 K-12 students and teachers from every county in the state of Maryland.
While focusing on museum administration for the past 10 years, Marciari-Alexander has extensive curatorial experience. She has curated, co-curated or managed several notable exhibitions, including two major exhibitions on the British contemporary painter Howard Hodgkin: in 2011, with Michael Stanley, Howard Hodgkin: Time & Place (Modern Art Oxford, UK; The San Diego Museum of Art; and De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art, Tilberg, Netherlands); and in 2007, with David Scrase, Howard Hodgkin: Paintings 1997-2007), which took place at the Yale Center for British Art and the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK and was named one of the ten best exhibitions of 2007 by Time magazine. That same year, she also managed for the Yale Center for British Art and Dulwich Picture Gallery, London, a major exhibition and publication by Charles Beddington, Canaletto in England: A Venetian Artist Abroad 1746-55. In 2001-2002, she was co-curator with Catharine MacLeod of the internationally acclaimed exhibition Painted Ladies: Women at the Court of Charles II that was held at the National Portrait Gallery, London and at the Yale Center for British Art. Marciari-Alexander has also authored and edited numerous publications, including Politics, Transgression, and Representation at the Court of Charles II (Yale University Press and the Yale Center for British Art, 2008).
Marciari-Alexander earned an M.A. and Ph.D. in the History of Art at Yale University. She also received an M.A. in French literature at New York University and a B.A. in art history and French at Wellesley College. Marciari-Alexander is married to John Marciari, Curator of European Art at the San Diego Museum of Art. The couple has two children, 9-year-old twins Beatrice and Jack.
The Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum is located in downtown Baltimore’s historic Mount Vernon Cultural District at North Charles and Centre streets and is one of only a few museums worldwide to present a comprehensive history of art from the third millennium B.C. to the early 20th century. Collection highlights include Egyptian mummies, Renaissance suits of armor, Fabergé eggs, Art Nouveau jewelry and old master paintings. Among its thousands of treasures, the Walters holds the finest collection of ivories, jewelry, enamels and bronzes in America and a spectacular reserve of illuminated manuscripts and rare books. The Walters’ Egyptian, Greek and Roman, Byzantine, Ethiopian and western medieval art collections are among the best in the nation, as are the museum’s holdings of Renaissance and Asian art. Every major trend in French painting during the 19th century is represented by one or more works in the Walters’ collection.
Source: The Walters Art Museum