After having briefly departed the museum world to launch her own digital platform, Heidi Zuckerman is returning to the institutional sphere. Next month, Zuckerman will become director and CEO of the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) in Southern California, landing her back in the spotlight as a leader of a well-respected institution. She will take the reins at the museum on February 8.
In the past two decades, Zuckerman has become well-known in the U.S. museum world. From 2005 to 2019, she was the director of the Aspen Art Museum in Colorado, an institution that, before her tenure, catered largely to locals. In the time she was there, she repositioned that museum to focus on contemporary artists with an international following and dramatically grew the institution’s attendance figures. She has also previously held positions at the Jewish Museum in New York and the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive in California.
Once Zuckerman departed the Aspen Art Museum in 2019, she formed her own platform, HiZ.art, which hosted talks, a podcast, books, and more. At the time, she told ARTnews that the institutional world offered a “limited scope” and that the platform was an attempt to reach audiences beyond the ones museums had in mind.
But, in an interview on Wednesday, Zuckerman expressed excitement about returning once more to museums. “I do think museums matter,” she said. “An institution that has always been committed to innovation is a great place to figure out how museums matter now and how they’ll matter going forward. I feel really excited about Orange County, both about its history and its future, so it feels like the perfect collaboration.”
Zuckerman said that her podcast, Conversations About Art, will continue while she is director of the OCMA. A related book of interviews by her is due out in October.
OCMA’s last director, Todd Smith, departed in the summer of 2020. The museum is currently in the process of constructing a $75 million new home at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts in nearby Costa Mesa, which will give the institution 25,000 square feet of dedicated exhibition space and an additional 10,000 square feet of multipurpose space. The project, which has been in the works for more than 30 years, is being overseen by Pritzker Prize–winning architect Thom Mayne and is due to be completed in 2022.
OCMA’s temporary space, in nearby Santa Ana, is currently closed because of pandemic-related restrictions. Since departing its Newport Beach location in 2018 as part of its expansion efforts, the museum has staged a series of ambitious solo shows of contemporary artists, including Carolina Caycedo, Ximena Garrido-Lecca, Hiromi Takizawa, Noé Martínez, and others.