Curator and art adviser Richard D. Marshall, whose career included 20 years at the Whitney Museum, curatorial credits for a lengthy list of international shows, and more than a decade as the curator of Lever House Art Collection in New York, died on August 8 in La Jolla, California. He was 67. The cause of death has not been released, but a notice in The New York Times stated that it was unexpected.
Marshall was born in California in 1947 and came to New York in 1973 to be in the Whitney Independent Study Program, and quickly becoming part of a small group of young curators at the Whitney Museum who over the next few decades would go on to distinguished careers.
Richard Armstrong, who was part of that cadre and is now director of the Guggenheim Museum, came to New York in the same year as Marshall. They met in the ISP. “He was unusual for a young curator, because he had a great empathy for artists, he had a very acute visual intelligence, and he was endlessly organized, and that’s a relatively rare trait, the last part in particular,” Armstrong told ARTnews.
Working at the museum from 1974 to 1993, Marshall organized dozens of shows, including six Whitney Biennials, four with Armstrong and Lisa Phillips, who is now director of the New Museum. “He was an important mentor and strongly encouraged me as a young curator,” Phillips said in a statement. “In fact, without his support, friendship and generosity, my own work would have undoubtedly taken a different trajectory.”
His major Whitney exhibitions included “New Image Painting,” “American Art Since 1970” and one-person shows with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Alex Katz, Louise Nevelson, Edward Ruscha, Robert Mapplethorpe. “The Mapplethorpe show itself was historic, and incredibly courageous, and very well done,” Armstrong said. “And it was the last thing Robert was really able to see.”
Marshall “had a very broad and open mind,” Phillips said, “and championed work and approaches that were not yet accepted, including ceramics, photography, graffiti and other forms that were not yet embraced by a conservative art establishment.”
His former colleagues emphasized his abiding support for West Coast artists (“Today that’s a given, but in those days that was quite anomalous,” Armstrong said) and credited him for his work building the museum’s collection of contemporary art (“Richard was quite clever about going out to the edge,” he added).
Beginning in 2003, he helped build New York’s Lever House Art Collection, working with collectors Aby Rosen and Alberto Mugrabi to commission works for the lobby of that building from a formidable array of artists, like Tom Sachs, Urs Fischer, Liza Lou, Paula Hayes, and many more.
He was also an adviser to the Calder Foundation and a trustee at the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego. He is survived by his partner, the architect William T. Georgis; a sister, Shirley Capic; his brother-in-law, Stephen Capic; nieces Sarah and Megann Capic, an aunt, Donna Meagher and a cousin, Kathleen Meagher.
When Thelma Golden, the current director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, came to the Whitney, as a curatorial assistant to Armstrong in 1988, she also worked closely with Marshall. “He was just the most elegant man, and really a man of great modesty,” she said in a telephone interview.
“He was a real connoisseur in the oldest, broadest sense of that word,” Golden added. “I believe that Richard was someone who believed in art in really broad but also deep ways.”