In today’s episode of In Other Words, we are joined by Richard Armstrong, who has been the director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation since 2008. A frank and insightful thinker who once considered a career in politics before entering the arts, Armstrong shares his thoughts on topics from censorship to deaccessioning.
He also talks about how museums can cope with being the targets of digital swarming and reveals an update on plans for the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi: “We’re looking forward to a real opening date at this point.”
For this and more, tune in today.
Click here for the full transcript
Charlotte Burns: Hello, and welcome to In Other Words, where we cover everything you ever wanted to know about the art world but didn’t know who to ask. I’m your host, Charlotte Burns, and today I’m joined by Richard Armstrong, who’s been the director of the Guggenheim Museum for ten years.
Armstrong quote from interview: “I find that there’s a tension daily, mostly in my own mind, I think, between looking and listening.”
director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation
Richard Armstrong was appointed director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation in November 2008. Armstrong leads the Guggenheim Foundation and its museums—including the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao; and the future Guggenheim Abu Dhabi—and serves on the Guggenheim Foundation board of trustees.
Since Armstrong’s arrival, the Guggenheim has undertaken global initiatives in Asia, Latin America and the Middle East as well as multi-disciplinary projects. The Guggenheim’s exhibitions during Armstrong’s tenure have emphasized scholarship, lesser-known histories and in-depth presentations of single artists. Notable exhibitions during this period include: “Maurizio Cattelan: All”; “Italian Futurism 1909 to 1944”; “Picasso: Black and White”; “Christopher Wool”; “V.S. Gaitonde: Painting as Process Painting as Life”; “Zero: Countdown to Tomorrow 1950s-1960s”; “On Kawara”; “Alberto Burri: The Trauma of Painting”; “Doris Salcedo”; “Agnes Martin”; “Danh Vo”; “Giacometti”; and “Hilma af Klint: Paintings for the Future”.
Prior to his directorship of the Guggenheim, Armstrong was the Henry J. Heinz II Director at Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh from 1996 to 2008. He began at Carnegie Museum of Art as a curator in 1992 and organized the 1995 Carnegie International. From 1981 to 1992, Armstrong was a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art, where he co-organized four Whitney Biennials as well as a number of other exhibitions. In 1980, he served on the Artists Committee to organize the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Los Angeles. He began his career as a curator at the La Jolla Museum of Contemporary Art in California from 1975 to 1979.
Armstrong was born in Kansas City, Missouri, graduated from Lake Forest College in Illinois with a BA in art history and studied at the Université de Dijon and the Université de Paris, Sorbonne.
executive editor of In Other Words
Charlotte Burns is the editor of In Other Words, our weekly newsletters and podcasts. She was previously the US news and market editor for The Art Newspaper, as well as a regular correspondent for publications such as the Guardian and Monocle. Previously, she worked with the London dealer Anthony d’Offay on special projects. For several years, she was a consultant at the cultural communications agency, Bolton & Quinn. She also worked at Hauser & Wirth in London.
Burns received a Masters degree (with Merit) from the Courtauld Institute in Art and Cultural Politics in Germany, 1890-1945, as well as a first-class B.A. honors degree in English and History of Art from Birmingham University. She moved to New York in 2010.
For more on Richard Armstrong
“Richard Armstrong on Legacy” from UBS Contemporary Art (2018)
“Richard Armstrong: Redefining Beauty Through Art” talk at Goldman Sachs (2017)
“A New Art Capital, Finding Its Own Voice” by Carol Vogel in The New York Times (2014)
“The Guggenheim’s Director Is a Portrait of Modesty” by Ann Landi in The Wall Street Journal (2009)
“Guggenheim Chooses a Curator, Not a Showman” by Carol Vogel in The New York Times (2008)
The live record
Behind the scenes with Richard Armstrong