El Museo del Barrio in New York has just named Margarita Aguilar as its new director, effective Sept. 12. Aguilar is currently vice president and senior specialist in Latin American art at Christie’s.
The appointment is a homecoming for Aguilar, who worked in the curatorial department of El Museo from 1998 to 2006. Among the shows she organized there are “Between the Lines: Text as Image. An Homage to Lorenzo Homar and the Reverend Pedro Pietri” (2006) and “Points of View: Photography from El Museo del Barrio’s Permanent Collection” (2005).
She has her work cut out for her. El Museo reopened in October 2009 following a one-year, $44-million renovation of its city-owned building. This June, the museum laid off four staff members (of 51) in an attempt to trim $1.1 million from its budget.
Aguilar told A.i.A. that her mandate is to continue doing what El Museo does best: represent the culture of Latin America, Latinos and the diverse population of its surrounding community. She will also focus on increasing the museum’s impact nationally and internationally. How will her experience in the commercial world inform her nonprofit work? “I met a lot of collectors, scholars, curators and museum directors while at Christie’s,” she said. “Those are the same relationships I will be cultivating at El Museo.”
Born in Cuba, Aguilar grew up in Washington Heights in upper Manhattan. She received her BA from New York University, an MA from Hunter College, and is a doctoral candidate in art history at the Graduate Center, City University of New York. She is preparing her dissertation on the “Nuyorican” artist Adál.
Aguilar replaces Julián Zugazagoitia, who stepped down last September to become director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, Mo.