Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Mergel leaving ICA for MFA

Jen Mergel, associate curator at Boston's Institute of Contemporary Art, has been named the Beal Family Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts, the museum announced today. Mergel, who is expected to begin work at the MFA in February, has worked at the ICA since 2005.

The Boston native fills the shoes of Cheryl Brutvan, who announced in July 2008 that she would be leaving the MFA, apparently without another job lined up. In January, she become curator of contemporary art at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Mergel's departure from the ICA follows the departure chief curator Nicholas Baume in September to become director of New York's Public Art Fund. Mergel would seem to have been next in line for Baume's job. Perhaps that job wasn’t available to her, but her move to the MFA suggests that Mergel sees a lot of potential at the venerable old museum, which has a reputation of not being, well, conducive to contemporary art but will have more space for Modern and contemporary art than the ICA when its renovation and expansion open perhaps at the end of next year. The release says, “Mergel will work with [Department of Contemporary Art and MFA Programs Chairman Edward] Saywell on the development, planning, and organization of the Museum’s new galleries in the Linde Family Wing, scheduled to open as the MFA’s center for contemporary art in June 2011.”

“The MFA is in a unique position to connect audiences to contemporary culture in the context of its world-class collections and scholarship as no other encyclopedic museum has before,” Mergel said in a prepared statement. “There is now unprecedented potential and commitment to build a program that allows visitors and students to rethink both contemporary and historical works as part of a broader, ongoing discourse. It is an honor to have the opportunity to work with such a phenomenal network of colleagues and patrons to develop the MFA’s bold new vision for contemporary art, and further enrich and expand Boston’s cultural landscape.”

Before joining the ICA, Mergel did curatorial work at the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College, helped with the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and was a curatorial fellow at the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover. She received a bachelor of arts degree in visual and environmental studies from Harvard University and her master of arts degree at Bard College’s Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture. The Boston native took courses at the MFA throughout grade school and high school. Following her studies at Harvard, she taught studio art courses there and, more recently, curatorial studies at Boston University.


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