After more than a year since its founding director stepped down, the Los Angeles art space REDCAT (Roy and Edna Disney/CalArts Theater), which is part of the California Institute of the Arts (CalArts), has named a new executive director: João Ribas, who succeeds Mark Murphy; he will start in the new role on June 1.
Most recently, Ribas has worked as an independent curator, organizing the Portuguese Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale in 2019, which presented the work of Leonor Antunes.
Ribas, who was born in Portugal and moved to Newark as a child, has held curatorial positions at the MIT List Visual Arts Center in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and the Drawing Center in New York before he returned to Portugal to serve as deputy director and chief curator of the Serralves Foundation Museum of Contemporary Art in Porto, in 2014.
“João brings a deep practice of working directly with artists on presenting new work and has been a great champion of free expression and diversity, values made important to him from his own experience growing up as an immigrant in Newark, New Jersey,” said CalArts President Ravi Rajan in a statement.
Though Ribas has worked primarily on the East Coast and in Portugal, he told ARTnews that he has a special connection to Los Angeles, where he first visited around 2006 to conduct studio visits for a group of exhibitions he curated at the now defunct Bellwether Gallery in New York. He was struck by the “vibrant artistic and creative communities” he saw there, and said that he has long followed the program at REDCAT, which opened in 2003 in Downtown Los Angeles. Over the years, at various institutions, Ribas would go on to curate various presentations of work by L.A. artists, among them Amanda Ross-Ho, Aaron Curry, Alice Könitz, Sterling Ruby, Frances Stark, and Martine Syms.
“REDCAT’s role as an extension of CalArts has been innovative in the way that it has always focused on experimentation and multidisciplinary practices,” Ribas told ARTnews. “The diversity of art it supports starts on the campus of CalArts and extends outward to all of Los Angeles and beyond.”
In January 2018, Ribas was promoted to artistic director of the Serralves. He announced his resignation in September 2018, one day after the opening of a major survey of photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe that he had curated. At the center of the controversy that ensued was an allegation of censorship that left 20 images out of the exhibition, with some reportedly being examples of the late artist’s more provocative works.
Shortly after, an open letter signed by some 400 arts professionals decrying the decision not to show the work was circulated online. The museum and the artist’s foundation both released separate statements shortly after refuting the claims of censorship. At the time, Ribas did not directly comment on the matter and said he had no further statement.
REDCAT also announced that it had promoted Edgar Miramontes to deputy executive director and curator. Miramontes had been the institution’s associate director since 2013 and helped lead REDCAT after Murphy departed. Among Miramontes’s curatorial credits at REDCAT include being co-curator and co-producer for the Pacific Standard Time Festival: Live Art LA/LA, for which the art space served as lead organizer.
Ribas said that part of his vision for REDCAT includes continuing the space’s role in “fostering experimentation and creativity” and he hopes to “expand its global perspective and its engagement with L.A.”