Courtney J. Martin will join Dia Art Foundation as deputy director and chief curator in a top-line move that will shift James Meyer into a “curatorial and academic advisor” role and place Martin, who as an independent curator organized Dia’s recent Robert Ryman show in Chelsea, in a permanent position. She will start in September and work thereafter at the foundation’s base in New York, relocating from Providence, Rhode Island, after teaching since 2013 in the history of art and architecture department at Brown University.
The Ryman survey, a new iteration of which opens March 4 at Museo Jumex in Mexico City, presented the artist’s deep, disquieting paintings in seemingly infinite shades of white with minimal direction and adornment (and in primarily natural light), in keeping with Dia’s decades-old ideals. Martin’s historical specialties tend toward art from the 1960s and ’70s, especially in Great Britain and international locales—a shift of emphasis for a foundation grounded in elemental American art by Donald Judd, John Chamberlain, Dan Flavin, Walter De Maria, and others in a mystique-filled postwar milieu.
“I like that her expertise is not necessarily in the canon of our collection,” Jessica Morgan, Dia’s director, said of her new hire. “She has been working on figures who were working in the same time but in different parts of the world, and she can bring a perspective that will bring new insight into our collection.”
Figures from Martin’s scholarly and curatorial past include Rasheed Araeen, Lawrence Alloway, and Frank Bowling, as well as younger artists such as Kader Attia, Leslie Hewitt, and Wangechi Mutu. Combining Dia’s historical interests with active engagement in contemporary art will be a principal part of Martin’s charge. “Obviously history is a must for someone coming into Dia,” Morgan said, “but she also has great confidence in contemporary and the bandwidth to work on both.”
While Meyer’s previous work in the same position—undertaken in the past year since he moved to Dia from the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.—included the recent acquisition of historic work by Anne Truitt as well as future projects involving Mel Bochner, Barry Le Va, and others still to come, Martin will begin with a more contemporary-focused directive.
“Even a cursory glance through the collection at Dia shows there are so many exhibitions waiting to happen,” Martin told ARTnews. “That in and of itself could keep me occupied for years.” But more present-minded engagement, of the kind that was integral to the foundation when it was centered on the expansive Dia Center for the Arts in Chelsea from 1987 to 2004, is part of its legacy too. While considering how an institution focuses on single-artist shows and “devotes itself to the idea of singularity and showing an artist in his or her best ideal,” Martin said, “it’s exciting to think through ways Dia has always done that but also what that means for the future.”
“What might a new site look like?” Martin asked, in reference to Dia landmarks like Walter De Maria’s The Lightning Field and Robert Smithson’s The Spiral Jetty. “The Allora & Calzadilla site”—a project in Puerto Rico for which the artist duo installed a Dan Flavin light sculpture in a cave in 2015—“gives a sense of where Dia might be going in terms of new sites, but that story has not been written, and I hope I’m a part of writing it.”
“I want Dia to reenter the space that it was in when I first came to New York, as a place that showed art but also nurtured ideas,” Martin said. “There needs to be a space for debate, conversation, and idea-exchange, and I think Dia can return to that.”