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Derrick R. Cartwright Named Next Director of the Seattle Art Museum
Derrick R. Cartwright has been chosen as the Seattle Art Museum’s new Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director following an international search. Photo: Jennifer Richard.

SEATTLE, WA.- Today the Seattle Art Museum’s Board of Trustees announced that Derrick R. Cartwright has been chosen as the Seattle Art Museum’s new Illsley Ball Nordstrom Director following an international search. Mr. Cartwright succeeds Mimi Gates who is retiring on June 30, 2009 after 15 years as the museum’s director. Cartwright has been the Executive Director at the San Diego Museum of Art since 2004 and will begin his position at SAM in the fall of 2009.

“We had an incredible pool of candidates but Derrick was clearly the right leader to leverage and build upon the remarkable foundation SAM has built under Mimi Gates’ leadership,” said Charlie Wright, chair of the search committee and SAM Trustee. “He has the perfect combination of an accomplished track record and a bold vision for the future. I have no doubt that he will prove to be a great leader of SAM’s stellar team.”

Over the past five years, Cartwright’s leadership has bolstered San Diego Museum of Art’s international reputation as a nexus for deep scholarship, thoughtful exhibitions and a dynamic permanent collection, while developing close ties to the community it serves through public outreach and engagement. Under his direction, the museum has increased its traveling exhibition and permanent collection loan programs, established a strong publications program and added more than 1,000 new acquisitions to the collection.

“Like so many others, I have admired the accomplishments of the Seattle Art Museum in recent years,” said Cartwright. “Few institutions, if any, can match the level of activity and growth – in terms of facility, programs and quality of collections – that has taken place during Mimi Gates’ tenure. There is still important work to do and I believe the potential for still greater success at SAM is tremendous. It is an honor to be asked to lead the institution at this time and I look forward to the work ahead with a terrific Board of Trustees, talented Staff, and an engaged community in Seattle.”

Prior to his position at the San Diego Museum of Art, Cartwright was the director of the Hood Museum of Art at Dartmouth College from 2001 to 2004 where he was instrumental in organizing several noteworthy exhibitions, including the critically acclaimed Coming of Age in Ancient Greece: Images of Childhood from the Classical Past, which traveled to the J. Paul Getty Museum. From 1998 to 2000, Cartwright directed the Musée d'Art Américain Giverny in France, where he developed and curated a variety of exhibitions featuring prominent American artists who studied or lived in France.

“Derrick understands the complexities of running an institution like the Seattle Art Museum,” said Stan Savage, Chairman of SAM’s Board of Trustees. “He is a thoughtful leader who is skilled at mobilizing a team, organizing strong artistic programs and connecting with the community.”

An active scholar with many essays, articles and exhibition catalogues to his credit, Cartwright earned his Ph.D. in art history at the University of Michigan (1994), where he specialized in North American art and architecture as well as 19th-century French art and the history of photography. He received an MA in 1988 from the University of California, Los Angeles, where he studied modern art, critical theory and the art of India, and a BA, with honors, in 1984 from the department of art history at the University of California, Berkeley.

“I am thrilled with the selection of Derrick Cartwright,” said Gates. “He is highly respected by his colleagues nationally and internationally. In addition to being a great scholar and strong leader, Derrick is committed to making great works of art accessible to the community.”

Born and raised in San Francisco, Cartwright will be moving to Seattle with his wife, Lauren, an attorney, and three children, Sarah, Julia and Graham.

Maryann Jordan, SAM’s Senior Deputy Director, will serve as the museum’s interim director during the time between Gates’ departure and Cartwright’s arrival.

Derrick R. Cartwright | Seattle Art Museum | Mimi Gates | San Diego Museum of Art | Hood Museum of Art | J. Paul Getty Museum | Musée d'Art Américain |

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