Who Is Connie Butler, the New Director of MoMA PS1?

Connie Butler will serve as MoMA PS1’s new director. (photo courtesy Museum of Modern Art)

MoMA PS1 announced a new director yesterday, May 8, after almost a year under interim leadership. Connie Butler will now head the Long Island City institution, the Museum of Modern Art’s (MoMA) contemporary art outpost.

Most recently, Butler served as chief curator of the Hammer Museum, a post she assumed in 2013. Since then, the institution has grown from a small arm of the University of California, Los Angeles to an internationally acclaimed museum. Before that, Butler was the chief drawings curator at MoMA and a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MoCA) in Los Angeles.

Now, Butler is headed back to the East Coast, where she will succeed former PS1 director Kate Fowle, who resigned unexpectedly last June. Fowle’s short tenure witnessed a trying time at the museum — the institution closed for the pandemic, its staff and budget were slashed, and protesters denounced board members’ ties to military contractors and the prison-industrial complex.

In 2010, Butler worked on the third iteration of the recurring MoMA PS1 exhibition Greater New York, which draws upon New York’s community of contemporary artists. Four years later, Butler co-curated the Hammer Museum’s nascent Made in LA biennial, another exhibition series that centers on emerging creators and has helped secure the Hammer’s image as an institution focused on supporting local artists.

The Hammer Museum opened in 1990. A 20-year renovation project came to an end in March, and the institution now holds the third-largest collection in Los Angeles. This year, Butler organized Together in Time, a presentation of artworks in the museum’s holdings that opened alongside the newly remodeled building.

Butler’s other curatorial projects have largely promoted women artists and feminist activists. At the Hammer Museum, Butler organized exhibitions including Andrea Fraser: Men on the Line (2019), an exploration of men’s relationship with feminism, Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions (2018), a MoMA collaboration that delved into the artist’s role in the field of conceptual art, and Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space (2017), the Italian artist’s first retrospective. At MoCA, Butler mounted WACK!: Art and the Feminist Revolution (2007), a landmark exhibition that showcased feminist art and activism from 1965 through 1980.

Butler has stated since that she regrets centering the work of White feminists: “I was trying to do something both canonical, but also revisionist,” she said in a 2021 interview for the UCLA newsroom. “The show had many flaws, and many artists who I now wish had been included were not.”

Last year, Butler organized Witch Hunt at the Hammer Museum. The show displayed work by 16 artists from 13 countries who expanded on the historical feminist lens to include de-colonial and queer frameworks in their art, including Minerva Cuevas, Teresa Margolles, and Okwui Okpokwasili.

Butler will start her new role in September.

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