Sabine Eckmann named director of Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum

Sabine Eckmann, Ph.D., will become director of the Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum at Washington University in St. Louis effective July 1, 2005, Chancellor Mark S. Wrighton announced today.

Sabine Eckmann
Sabine Eckmann

Eckmann joined the Kemper Art Museum as curator in fall 1999 and also regularly teaches seminars in the Department of Art History & Archaeology in Arts & Sciences. She succeeds Mark S. Weil, Ph.D., the E. Desmond Lee Professor for Collaboration in the Arts, who has led the museum since 1998. Weil, a longtime faculty member in art history, will retire June 30.

“Sabine is an exceptional scholar, curator and administrator,” Wrighton said. “She has brought national and international attention to our outstanding art collection through a series of ambitious exhibitions, events and publications. I look forward to continued strengthening of museum programs under her leadership.”

Eckmann’s appointment comes at a time of great activity for the Kemper Art Museum, one of three major units in the new Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts. Now under construction, the five-building, $60 million complex — three buildings of which are designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architect Fumihiko Maki — aspires to become a national model for the creation, study and exhibition of multidisciplinary and collaborative work. Plans include new museum facilities, scheduled to open in fall 2006, that will triple current exhibition space.

Eckmann, a native of Nürnberg, Germany, is a specialist in 20th and 21st-century European art and visual culture with a particular focus on the intersection of art and politics, ranging from exile art and cold-war aesthetics to European post-unification art. Other research interests include avant-gardism, new art forms, media, critical theory and cultural studies.

Eckmann earned both a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in art history from the University Erlangen-Nürnberg, in 1984 and 1987, respectively. She then studied at University Erlangen-Nürnberg and University of Köln, earning a doctorate in 1993. Prior to arriving in St. Louis, she taught at the University of Tulsa and served as exhibition associate for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s acclaimed Exiles + Emigrés: The Flight of European Artists from Hitler (1997).

Max Beckmann
A poster for the German tour of “Exile and Modernism: H.W. Janson and the Collection of Washington University in St. Louis” reproducess Max Beckmanns “Four Men Around a Table” (1943).

Major exhibitions at the Kemper Art Museum include Beginnings. The Taste of the Founders (2000); Caught by Politics: Art of the 1930s and 1940s (2001); and H. W. Janson and Legacy of Modern Art at Washington University in St. Louis (2002). An expanded version of the latter, which debuted in New York, is currently touring four cities in Germany under the title Exil und Moderne.

Other exhibitions include Eleanor Antin: A Retrospective (2000); Christian Jankowski’s Targets (2002); Arnold Odermatt Photographs (2003); Contemporary German Art: New Acquisitions (2003); and American Art of the 1980s: Selections From the Broad Collections (2004).

Fluent in English, German, Italian and French, Eckmann has lectured widely and contributed essays to numerous books and periodicals, including volumes on Max Beckmann, John Heartfield, Roberto Matta and Felix Nussbaums. She edited and contributed essays to the catalogs for Exiles + Emigrés, H. W. Janson and Exil und Moderne. She also recently completed a manuscript on Caught by Politics: Hitler Exiles and American Visual Culture, co-edited with Lutz Koepnick, associate professor of German and of Film and Media Studies, both in Arts & Sciences.

Last fall, Eckmann won a $125,000 Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award to support Reality Bites: Making Avant-Garde Art in Post-Wall Germany, scheduled to open in the museum’s new facilities in spring 2007. The exhibition also has received a $50,000 grant from the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

The Washington University art collections were founded in 1881 as part of the St. Louis School and Museum of Fine Arts — the first art museum west of the Mississippi River. Historically focused on the work of contemporary artists, the collection today includes important paintings, sculptures, photographs and installations by major 19th, 20th and 21st century American and European figures, ranging from Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock to Christian Boltanski, Candida Hoefer, Isa Genzken and Olafur Eliasson.

The museum also holds significant antiquities as well as a large number of prints and drawings and the Wulfing Collection of about 14,000 early Greek, Roman and Byzantine coins. The new building also will house a large sculpture garden and the 3,000-square-foot Newman Money Museum.

The Sam Fox School boasts a virtually unique combination of academic and intellectual resources. It is composed of three principal units — Art, Architecture and the Kemper Art Museum — with additional collaborative opportunities provided by Art History & Archaeology and the Kenneth & Nancy Kranzberg Art & Architecture Library.