Bruce W. Ferguson, the first director of SITE Santa Fe, an important art space with a major biennial in New Mexico, has died at 73. The Los Angeles Times, which first reported the news, said that the cause was cancer.
Ferguson became director of SITE Santa Fe in 1993 and led the institution through 1996. Among his achievements there was the founding of the museum’s biennial, now known as SITElines, one of the most important shows of its kind in the American Southwest.
In 1995 Ferguson curated the first edition of SITE Santa Fe’s biennial, which he called “Longing and Belonging: From the Faraway Nearby.” Four years later, in 1999, he went on to do the show “Postmark: An Abstract Effect.” “A lot of women artists were in the show,” Ferguson said in a 2000 interview with the Columbia University Record. “This, by implication, revisited the history of women’s exclusion from modernist abstraction.”
It was an example of the trailblazing curatorial work Ferguson would do throughout his career. A longtime advocate for Canadian art, he organized exhibitions-within-exhibitions of work by artists from the country for the Venice Biennale, the Bienal de São Paulo, and the Biennale of Sydney. In 1996, working with Reesa Greenberg and Sandy Nairne, he edited Thinking About Exhibitions, an influential anthology of essays about curating.
After working at SITE Santa Fe, Ferguson became the executive director and president of the New York Academy of Arts, and went on to have a career in academia. From 2015 until this past March, Ferguson was president of the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles. Previously, he had also been the director of the School of the Arts at Columbia University in New York and the dean of humanities and social sciences at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. Briefly, Ferguson also served as vice chairman of Louise Blouin Media.