Longtime Noguchi Museum Director Jenny Dixon Announces Retirement at End of 2017

  • Photo: Don Stahl

    Photo: Don Stahl

Jenny Dixon, longtime director of The Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum (The Noguchi Museum), today announced that she will retire from the position at the end of this year. The Museum’s Board of Trustees is forming a search committee to determine who will lead the Museum moving forward.

 

Ms. Dixon joined the Museum as its fifth director in April 2003. At the time, it operated under the aegis of the Isamu Noguchi Foundation, which had been established by the artist, and presented an ongoing exhibition of works by Noguchi, displayed as he had originally installed them. Early in her tenure, Ms. Dixon initiated a multi-year process that would transform the organization into an entity that encompassed a public museum, with a full roster of exhibitions and public programs—all related to Noguchi, his work, and influence—and a foundation devoted to the preservation and study of Noguchi’s work and life, with resources made available to scholars and others. In the process of doing so, she also stabilized the Museum’s finances.

 

Noguchi Museum Board Chair Malcolm C. Nolen states, “The board and staff of The Noguchi Museum, as well as a broad public—from our neighbors in Queens, to New Yorkers from all five boroughs, and the national and international visitors for whom the Museum has become a treasured place of respite and learning—owe Jenny Dixon a deep debt of gratitude. When Jenny came to the Museum it was a beautiful, peaceful place, but a somewhat static one, and closed to the public for almost half the year. Today, it is a vital part of New York City’s mosaic of arts organizations, with an international reputation. And Jenny accomplished all of this while maintaining the serenity, beauty, and sense of an oasis that has been intrinsic to the Museum since its inception. We celebrate Jenny’s tenure and look forward to building on her transformative achievements.”

 

Ms. Dixon says, “It has been my extraordinary good fortune to lead The Noguchi Museum for the past 14 years. It is an amazing place, and my years here have been among the most gratifying of my career, a capstone to some forty years of active engagement in New York City’s cultural life and a transition to the next phase of my life and work. I am acutely aware that my accomplishments here could not have been achieved without many other people. I am deeply grateful to the Museum’s dedicated, visionary Board of Trustees for their unflagging support; to the City of New York, which has enabled our greatest successes; and to the individuals, foundations, and government agencies that have provided critical support for our programming. Perhaps most important of all, though, is the Museum’s superb staff. Their commitment to excellence, their passion and energy when it comes to all things Noguchi, and their combination of intelligence and humor—among many other qualities—are humbling. To each of them, thank you.”

 

Among Ms. Dixon’s most notable achievements while at the Museum was undertaking the complex process of obtaining a permanent museum charter from the State of New York, followed by a multi-year project—accomplished, in part, with funding from and in collaboration with the City of New York—to renovate and stabilize the 27,000-square-foot museum building and its internationally celebrated sculpture garden. In so doing, Ms. Dixon ensured both that Noguchi’s original vision for the Museum was preserved, and that its growing audiences would be better served. In 2016, upon completion of the renovation, the Museum obtained accreditation from the Alliance of American Museums (AAM), at once affirming that the Museum meets AAM’s “National Standards and Best Practices,” and capping the process through which it successfully navigated its transition from a private foundation to a professional museum.

 

Ms. Dixon’s many achievements as director encompassed program as well as bricks-and-mortar. Early in her tenure, she initiated a regular schedule of special exhibitions, complementing the permanent installation with major shows that illuminate both the historic context in which Noguchi worked and the enduring influence of his art and design. These proved to be transformative, opening the Museum to new ideas and to the work of artists other than Noguchi. Several recent exhibitions have brought to the Museum the work not only of Noguchi’s contemporaries, but also of living artists and designers. At the same time, public programs have greatly expanded to include regularly scheduled talks by artists, scholars, and critics; hands-on workshops for all ages; performances; and more, while school programs now serve thousands of children and teens every year.

 

Scholarship on Noguchi and his work is central to the Museum, and Ms. Dixon secured major funding to digitize the collection of the Museum’s photographs, manuscripts, drawings, study collection, and archival materials, vastly expanding access to these resources, while also overseeing the launch of a digital catalogue raisonné, bringing new scholarship to the field.

 

Prior to joining The Noguchi Museum, Jenny Dixon was executive director of the Bronx Museum of the Arts (1999–2003), the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (1986–97), and director of the Public Art Fund (1977–86), where she first met and worked with Isamu Noguchi on the artist’s first project to be installed on public land in New York City, a sculpture titled Unidentified Object that was sited in Central Park’s Doris Freedman Plaza from December 13, 1979, through January 13, 1981, and is now in the collection of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, on view at the south end of the Museum’s plaza.

 

In addition to her work at arts organizations, Ms. Dixon has participated in numerous national and international panels and symposia, taught at New York University, The Cooper Union, and Parsons School of Design, and served on various boards. She is currently a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors and ArtTable, where she is the Board of Directors’ Vice President for Governance.

 

About The Noguchi Museum

Founded in 1985 by Isamu Noguchi (1904–88), one of the leading sculptors and designers of the twentieth century, The Noguchi Museum was the first museum in America to be established, designed, and installed by a living artist to show his or her own work. Widely viewed as among the artist’s greatest achievements, the Museum comprises ten indoor galleries in a converted factory building, as well as an internationally acclaimed outdoor sculpture garden. Since its founding, it has served as an international hub for Noguchi research and appreciation. In addition to housing the artist’s archives and the catalogue raisonné of his work, the Museum exhibits a comprehensive selection of sculpture, models for public projects and gardens, dance sets, and his Akari light sculptures. Provocative, frequently-changing installations drawn from the permanent collection, together with diverse special exhibitions related to Noguchi and the milieu in which he worked, offer a rich, contextualized view of Noguchi’s art and illuminate his enduring influence as a category-defying, multicultural, cross-disciplinary innovator.

 

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