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The International Center of Photography announces appointment of David E. Little as new executive director
Little will join ICP after six years as director and chief curator of the Mead Art Museum. Image: Verbsite, 2021.

NEW YORK, NY.- The Board of Trustees of the International Center of Photography announced today the selection of David E. Little as its new executive director, following an international search. Little will join ICP in mid-September 2021, after six years as director and chief curator of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, and will succeed Mark Lubell, who announced his decision to depart ICP in March 2021.

“David brings to ICP an outstanding mix of skills and experiences, between his work as an educator, curator, fundraiser, and manager, and we are thrilled that he will be joining us,” said Jeffrey Rosen, ICP’s Board President. “His wide-ranging roles at leading institutions both within and outside of New York City make clear that he understands the different but interrelated elements of exhibitions, education, and community engagement that make ICP unique, which in turn made him the clear choice for our new executive director.”

Little’s tenure at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst was marked by a record of successful fundraising, collection growth and diversification, and institutional planning that has strengthened the Mead’s curatorial program and its educational role within Amherst’s liberal arts curriculum. Little’s prior positions include time as the curator and department head of photography and new media at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, associate director and head of education at the Whitney Museum of American Art, and director of adult and academic programs at the Museum of Modern Art.

Little joins ICP at an exciting moment in the institution’s history. In January 2020—just before the Covid-19 pandemic forced its closure in March—ICP opened its new, integrated center at 79 Essex Street within the Essex Crossing complex, an expansive mixed-use development on the Lower East Side. Designed by Gensler, this new location reunites the institution’s school and museum into one building, creating an engaging space for museumgoers, ICP members, students, and the Lower East Side community to explore how images shape our understanding of the world. The Center features exhibition galleries, classrooms, media labs, darkrooms, an equipment room, and shooting studios, as well as an extensive research library, a shop, caf, and public event spaces. The upcoming fall/winter season at ICP will feature the exhibitions Gillian Laub: Family Matters, Diana Markosian: Santa Barbara and INWARD: Reflections on Interiority, all on view September 24, 2021 through January 10, 2022.

“Joining ICP is an ideal opportunity that unites my long-standing interests in photography and education, for an organization that has done so much to train and nurture generations of artists,” said Little. “Much as when ICP was founded almost 50 years ago, we continue to see first-hand how powerful socially and politically minded images can change the world. Yet changes in technology make capturing and sharing these images easier, in ways that we could hardly have imagined and that are part of a larger, image-based societal transformation. ICP is uniquely positioned to capitalize on this moment, to build upon its leadership in international photography, education, and scholarship, and to strengthen its connections with its Lower East Side neighbours.”

David E. Little

Since July 2015, Little has been the John Wieland 1958 Director and Chief Curator of the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College, where he enhanced and expanded the exhibition program, diversified the collection, re-established relationships with the wider academic community on campus, and made targeted improvements to the museum’s facilities. His Rotherwas Project series transformed the Mead’s 17th century period room—a space that had not been commonly used as a gallery at the museum—into a dynamic platform for emerging and mid-career artists such as Christopher Myers, Yinka Shonibare, Amanda Valdez, and Saya Woolfalk. The series expressly called out the contrasts between the heavy, wood-paneled room, meant to evoke the power and wealth of England, with installations by artists whose work often directly critiques such structures of power, colonialism, and tradition.

This emphasis on change also extended to the Mead’s collections, where Little rebalanced the approach to acquisitions to ensure that new works coming into the museum better reflected the diversity of the Amherst campus and community. Among these acquisitions was the gift of a collection of more than 170 works of contemporary art, along with 100 other acquisitions, of which 70% were purchases of works by artists of color.

During his time at the Mead, Little increased the endowment by 33%, and doubled annual Friends of the Mead donations. He secured major gifts of $3 million to endow and name the position of director and chief curator and $1 million for the endowment to create a fund for an annual purchase of art by students. He successfully fundraised to support the renovation of the museum’s galleries and a rethinking and reinstallation of its collection, and also conceptualized and secured funds to build an open storage classroom within the museum, providing direct access to the Mead’s collection for students and faculty.

Prior to joining the Mead, Little was the Curator and Department Head of Photography and New Media at the Minneapolis Institute of Art from December 2008 to July 2015. An encyclopedic museum with a photography collection of more than 12,000 primarily historical objects, Little worked to expand and diversify the collection, bringing in pieces by Luc Delahaye, Stan Douglas, Kota Ezawa, David Goldblatt, Nan Goldin, Sarah Jones, Sze Tsung Leong, Zanele Muholi, Boris Mikhailov, Gordon Parks, Penelope Umbrico, and James Welling. He secured a bequest of a photography collection of some 600 works, and raised funds for an additional department endowment of $1.5. million. Little also prioritized access to the collection, leading a project to digitize and make the museum’s photography collection better accessible on its website. Among the exhibitions he organized was the widely recognized The Sports Show, demonstrating the artistry at the heart of sports photography that audiences often take for granted, and establishing the museum’s New Pictures contemporary photography series.

As the Associate Director and Helena Rubinstein Chair of Education at the Whitney Museum of American Art from June 2007 to December 2008, Little reinvented the department with an “open studio” model that emphasized engaging artists as central catalysts for programming, interpretation, and visitor experience. He also secured a $3 million grant from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation towards a $4.5 million endowment for community outreach and digitization initiatives. Before joining the Whitney, Little served as the director of Adult and Academic Programs at the Museum of Modern Art from 2003 to 2007. In that role, among other things, he conceptualized and launched MoMA Courses in conjunction with Yoshio Taniguchi’s 2004 expansion to serve an untapped community of “lifelong learners,” and taught an experimental course called “Reading with Contemporary Artists,” exploring the connections between contemporary art and literature with artists Martha Rosler and Spencer Finch.

Little received his Ph.D. in Art History from Duke University; his dissertation on the Lower East Side artists’ group was titled Collaborative Projects, Inc.: A History of an American Artists’ Collective, 1977-1983. He is a graduate of the Williams College Graduate Program in the History of Art, and received his B.A. from Bowdoin College.

“If it is difficult to understate the challenges of the last 18 months, it is hard to overstate our optimism for the future of ICP and its new Lower East Side facilities. Bringing our education and exhibition spaces back together is an important milestone for this organization, setting the stage for us to engage both local and global communities in new and exciting ways,” said Carly Englander, ICP’s Board Chair. “We are so looking forward to working with David to further develop our roots in our new Lower East Side neighborhood and to discover and implement together initiatives that deepen scholarship and inspire greater understanding of the significance of photography within our lives and to our global society.”

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