This installment of the Washington Ideas Roundtable features Richard Koshalek, Director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, discussing The Museum As Forum: Creative Dialogues for the 21st Century.
The Washington Ideas Roundtable Series is made possible with the generous support of Michelle Smith and the Robert H. Smith Family Foundation.
Richard Koshalek is the director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden. He oversees a staff of 60 and a collection of 11,500 objects that represent pieces by leading artists from the late 19th century to the present day, including paintings, sculpture, mixed media pieces, photography, works on paper, video and film.
Koshalek, 69, was president of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif., from 1999 until January 2009. Before that, he served as director of The Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles for nearly 20 years. At both institutions, he was noted for his commitment to new artistic initiatives, including commissioned works, scholarly exhibitions and publications and the building of new facilities that garnered architectural acclaim. He worked with architect Frank Gehry on the design and construction of MOCA’s Geffen Contemporary (1983), a renovated warehouse popularly known as the Temporary Contemporary. He also worked with the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki on the museum’s permanent home in Los Angeles (1986).
As director, deputy director and chief curator of Los Angeles’ MOCA for nearly two decades (1980-1999), Koshalek grew the institution from a staff of three people, no collection and $50,000 into a world-renowned museum with a staff of 75, a collection of 4,000 works (including many intact collections) that often traveled to other museums and a budget of more than $15 million. Under his leadership, MOCA completed multiple capital campaigns and in 1999 had an endowment of nearly $50 million. He also co-curated many major exhibitions, including shows on Ad Reinhardt, Robert Irwin and Richard Serra, as well as “End of the Century: A History of 20th-Century Architecture.”
He began his career at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, serving as registrar, assistant curator and then curator from 1967 to 1972. He served as assistant director of the Visual Arts program at the National Endowment for the Arts for two years (1972-1974) and then moved to Texas to become director of the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth (formerly the Fort Worth Art Museum) from 1974-1976.