FOR THE FIRST TIME in 17 years, the Yale Center for British Art (YCBA), will have a change in leadership. Courtney J. Martin, deputy director and chief curator of the Dia Art Foundation and Yale alum, has been named the next director of YCBA.

Yale University President Peter Salovey announced the appointment in April and said he was “delighted” to welcome Martin back to Yale. Her tenure at YCBA begins in July, succeeding Amy Meyers, who is retiring after serving as director since 2002.

 


Courtney J. Martin is joining the Yale Center for British Art as director. She earned a Ph.D., in art history from Yale in 2009. | Photo by Winnie Gier, Courtesy Yale University

 

In a statement, Salovey described Martin as “an esteemed scholar of historical and contemporary art” and said “she will use her extensive experience in research, teaching, and curation to further infuse the arts into the university’s work and shape the YCBA’s leadership in the field of British art.”

Salovey continued: “Courtney is committed to providing outstanding educational opportunities for our students, scholarly material for our faculty, and enriching experiences for the thousands of visitors that enjoy the YCBA every year.”

He added: “She is attentive to the core collection of 17th-, 18th-, and mid-19th-century art as well as modern and contemporary British art. I know that she will deftly guide the YCBA’s ever-increasing international prominence in the years ahead.”

Martin is a curator, art historian, and professor, with a background in British art. The announcement comes a decade after Martin earned a Ph.D., in art history from Yale. During her graduate studies, she contributed to the exhibition “Art and Emancipation in Jamaica: Isaac Mendes Belisario and his Worlds,” which was presented at YCBA in 2007. Martin’s dissertation focused on British art and artists in the 1970s.

In a recent conversation with the Observer, Martin said the opportunity to return to her alma mater and lead center was “simply too good to pass up.”

MARTIN BEGAN WORKING with the New York-based Dia Art Foundation in 2015 when she organized an exhibition of the American painter Robert Ryman as an adjunct curator. The show was Dia’s first exhibition in Chelsea in more than a decade and Ryman’s first in New York since his 1993 retrospective at the Museum of Modern Art. She was appointed deputy director and chief curator of Dia in 2017.

Dia is dedicated to “advancing, realizing, and preserving the vision of artists” and “fulfills its mission by commissioning single artist projects, organizing exhibitions, realizing site-specific installations, and collecting in-depth the work of a focused group of artists of the 1960s and 1970s.” Martin oversees Dia’s multi-site operation.

Over the past two years, she has worked on an exhibition featuring Dan Flavin’s work and a presentation of Dorothea Rockburne’s work currently on view at Dia:Beacon in Beacon, N.Y. An installation of works by Sam Gilliam from the 1960s and 70s opens at Dia:Beacon on Aug. 10. Curated by Martin, the exhibition will remain on display long term.

Previously, Martin worked at the Ford Foundation and held faculty posts at Vanderbilt University and Brown University. She has also worked on a number of independent projects over the years.

Among them, she contributed an essay to “Frank Bowling,” the forthcoming exhibition catalog that accompanies the first major retrospective of British-Guyanese artist, currently on view at Tate Britain. Her writing focuses on his Map Paintings. produced in the late 1960s and early 70s. Earlier, Martin curated “Drop, Roll, Slide, Drip…Frank Bowling’s Poured Paintings 1973–8” (2012-13) at Tate Britain.

She also edited “Four Generations: The Joyner Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art,” a major volume documenting a collection of Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida, which includes more than 300 works of art by about 100 African American artists and artists of African descent.

Earlier this year, she was named to the director’s council for the fifth edition of Prospect New Orleans, which is slated for 2020.

THE YALE CENTER FOR BRITISH ART is recognized for housing the largest collection of British art outside the United Kingdom. Paul Mellon, the art collector and philanthropist who graduated from Yale in 1929, established the center, providing the building, art, and endowment.

YCBA opened in 1977 with Mellon’s gift forming the core of the art collection, which includes more than 2,000 paintings, 250 sculptures, 20,000 drawings and watercolors, 40,000 prints, and 35,000 rare books and manuscripts. The expansive collection reflects the development of British art and culture dating back to the Elizabethan period. Meanwhile, YCBA’s reference library contains more than 40,000 volumes.

“The center has an amazing wealth of resources, not the least of which is its Louis Kahn building. I am so pleased to be returning to the YCBA and to New Haven,” Martin said when her appointment was announced.

“Amy Meyers has expertly stewarded the collection for nearly 20 years. I look forward to further developing the many engaging exhibitions, publications, and programs that have earned the center its international acclaim.”

Martin’s vision includes situating British art “within a global framework of migration and cultural exchange.” She told the New York Times she is looking forward to the “opportunity to expand what we think of as British art, not only for the 20th and 21st centuries, but for all periods.” CT

 

BOOKSHELF
Courtney J. Martin contributed to “Frank Bowling,” the soon-to-be-released catalog that accompanies the artist’s first major retrospective at Tate Britain and is the author of the forthcoming book “Hurvin Anderson (Contemporary Painters Series).” She also edited “Four Generations: The Joyner Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art” and conducted a conversation with the collectors Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida, which was published in the volume. In addition, Martin co-edited “Robert Ryman” and “Lawrence Alloway: Critic and Curator.” Other publications include “Tangible Space: The Sculptor Morten Stræde” and, more recently, “Lara Favaretto,” about the Turin, Italy-based artist whose practice “explores the absurdities of modern life, consumer culture, and obsolescence.”

 

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