Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery has a new leader: Betti-Sue Hertz, who will take up its director and chief curator positions in New York on September 1. Hertz will succeed Deborah Cullen-Morales, who was hired to lead the Bronx Museum of the Arts last year.
Hertz’s hire comes in the wake of a number of huge milestones for the Wallach, including the 2017 opening of its new home in the Renzo Piano-designed Lenfest Center for the Arts, and its presentation of the landmark 2018 exhibition “Posing Modernity: the Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today,” which traveled to the Musée d’Orsay in Paris.
A New York City native, Hertz has lived and worked in California for the last 20 years. She has taught courses at Stanford University and the San Francisco Art Institute, and she most recently served as director of visual arts at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco. Hertz also previously worked as curator of contemporary art at the San Diego Museum of Art.
In an interview with ARTnews, Hertz said she hopes to cultivate collaborations between the Wallach and art institutions in Upper Manhattan, as well as national and international venues. Expanding the museum’s partnerships with community organizations is also a priority for her—the Wallach has worked with Arts & Minds and the Brotherhood-Sister Sol.
“I think we absolutely need to be part of that ecology and playing a leadership role in the Upper Manhattan community,” she said.
Among the upcoming programs at the Wallach are survey of contemporary art of Algeria and its diaspora, titled “Waiting for Omar Gatlato,” and, in conjunction with the university-wide initiative “Year of Water,” an exhibition of Waterlicht, a large-scale installation by the Dutch artist Daan Roosegaarde.
“What’s exciting about [“Year of Water”] is that it was initiated by the School of the Arts, and it’s a very arts-driven initiative in a university that has so many departments and directions,” Hertz said. “I think it’s a really bold initiative and certainly I want to be able to partner with the School of the Arts as these kinds of university-wide thematics emerge, as one way of being interdisciplinary and thinking across departments and units.”
On the heels of the hugely successful “Posing Modernity” show, Hertz said she wants to maintain the high interest that it brought to the Wallach, which also plays host to Columbia’s MFA shows each year.
“We hope that things catch fire and then snowball,” she said. “We have to continue working on that path and continue providing that kind of excellence and leadership in the arts. We know that there are ebbs and flows, but that’s where we’re heading.”