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El Museo del Barrio Appoints Christie's Specialist Margarita Aguilar as New Director
Margarita Aguilar, 2006. Courtesy of El Museo del Barrio.

NEW YORK, NY.- El Museo del Barrio announced that it has appointed Margarita Aguilar to be its next director, beginning September 12, 2011. Aguilar, who served in the curatorial department at El Museo from 1998 to 2006, is currently Vice President and Senior Specialist in Latin American art at Christie’s. Through her work at El Museo and Christie’s, Aguilar has wide knowledge of historical and contemporary Latino and Latin American art and is a leading voice in the field. Aguilar was selected following an international search, and replaces Julian Zugazagoitia, who is now Director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Missouri. Georgina M. Nichols, Director of Finance and Administration, has been serving as Interim Director of El Museo.

Aguilar has worked extensively on colonial, modern and contemporary art of the Americas, specializing in photography by American, Latin American and Latino artists. Her time at Christie’s has coincided with a period of dramatic growth in interest in Latin American art, which she helped to further in her role as Vice President and Senior Specialist in the field. During her eight-year tenure as curator at El Museo del Barrio, she curated several exhibitions including Between The Lines: Text as Image. An Homage to Lorenzo Homar and The Reverend Pedro Pietri, 2006 and Points of View: Photography from El Museo del Barrio's Permanent Collection, 2005. She also served as in-house curator for Mexico: The Revolution and Beyond, Photographs by Casasola 1900-1940, 2005; and collaborated on Retratos: 2,000 Years of Latin American Portraits, 2004 and Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Twentieth-Century Mexican Art: The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Collection, 2002.

“Margarita brings a unique combination of proven curatorial excellence and a long connection with El Museo, as well as a broad perspective on the Latin American art world, to her new position as director,” said Tony Bechara, Chair of El Museo’s Board of Trustees. “We are delighted to welcome her back, and confident that her deep knowledge, diverse experience, and dynamic vision will enhance El Museo’s artistic programming and vital role in our community, and expand the institution’s growing impact both in this country and around the world.”

“El Museo has become a cultural force, showcasing the vibrancy of Latin American and Latino arts with groundbreaking programming that engages people of all backgrounds,” said Aguilar. “I am thrilled to return to El Museo and look forward to increasing our influence throughout the country and the world, as we also deepen our ties to our community here in El Barrio.”

Aguilar’s appointment comes two years after the completion of an extensive renovation of El Museo’s home in East Harlem and a year-long celebration of the institution’s 40th anniversary. The renovation and expansion project included the creation of new galleries and public spaces, and was designed to better serve El Museo’s rapidly growing audience, which has increased from 20,000 to over 250,000 annual visitors in the past decade. This year, El Museo mounted The (S) Files, its sixth and largest biennial, featuring works by 75 Latino, Caribbean, and Latin American artists currently working in the New York area. The museum is currently organizing Caribbean: Crossroads of the World, an expansive, multi-venue exhibition that will open next summer. The project will examine the development of the visual arts across the Caribbean, looking at the histories of the Spanish, French, Dutch, and English islands and their diasporas. This exhibition will be presented in collaboration with The Studio Museum in Harlem and the Queens Museum of Art, with a series of educational and public programs that will explore the themes of the exhibition.

As curator at El Museo, Aguilar was Associate Editor and contributed essays to the five-volume catalogue that accompanied the traveling exhibition Voces & Visiones: Highlights from El Museo del Barrio's Permanent Collection, 2003-2006. She has also been an active participant in conferences and panels, including most recently the international symposium at The Bildner Center for Western Hemisphere Studies at The Graduate Center at City University of New York, in March 2011. In 2005, she received The Smithsonian Institution Latino Initiatives Center Fellowship. Aguilar, who is of Cuban origin, received her BA from New York University, an MA in Art History from Hunter College, and is a Doctoral candidate in Art History at The Graduate Center. Her dissertation focuses on the work of Nuyorican artist Adal.

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