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Memorial Art Gallery names new director


Jonathan Binstock has been named the next Director of the Memorial Art Gallery, the University of Rochester announced Monday. University President Joel Seligman and Memorial Art Gallery Board of Managers Chair Jim Durfee made the announcement following a seven month search to replace outgoing director Grant Holcomb.

Binstock comes to Rochester from New York City, where he has been a senior vice president and senior adviser in modern and contemporary art for Citi Private Bank's Art Advisory & Finance group.

"Our new director is the right person for the Memorial Art Gallery as it begins its second century" Seligman says. "He is a scholar of extraordinary accomplishment." Binstock has taught at the University of Michigan, University of Pennsylvania, and has several published pieces.

Binstock's curatorial career spans more than a decade and has taken shape at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts and Corcoran Gallery of Art, among other places.

Seligman says that Binstock was selected not for his resume, but for his character. "As you get to know him, you will see a truly visionary leader, an enthusiast for art, who brings a focused passion that is quite extraordinary," he says.

Though he comes from a background with a contemporary focus as an expert in post-World War II art, "he is a person with a very broad range, in terms of his understanding of art," Seligman says.

Binstock says he is excited about this particular opportunity in this museum. "From the very first time I stepped foot into the gallery, I really became enamored of a number of works of art that I discovered for the very first time," he says. This list includes what he calls "A-Plus" works such as "Waterloo Bridge - Veiled Sun" by Claude Monet, and the ancient Egyptian coffin of Pa-debehu-Aset, which he notes as an impressive acquisition for a museum in a city of this size.

"The thing about the Memorial Art Gallery is that you can see Ancient Egyptian sculpture in the context of a surrealist box by Joseph Cornell," Binstock says. "You can see European Impressionism in the context of American Impressionism. You can see Contemporary sculpture in the context of 19th Century American sculpture. It's an almost encyclopedic museum, it has incredible range, incredible depth," he says.

Binstock describes himself as a big-picture art scholar. "I've been a curator of contemporary art, that's where my expertise lies. But I've always seen contemporary art in the context of art history, world art, historical art, because it has to measure up, it has to make sense in that broader context," he says. "So this is a special opportunity for a person like me. I'm excited to work in this broad context, and to connect all of these dots, and to see the big picture through whatever it is that the MAG will be doing in the years ahead."

Binstock spoke enthusiastically about looking forward to demonstrating to an ever-broader audience the value of the museum, and about his excitement to work with the MAG staff and board. Despite this impressive collection of 11,000 objects, and the rich opportunities involved with the MAG's affiliation with one of the world's top research institutions, he says the greatest assets of the museum are the people devoted to its success.

Binstock's appointment follows Holcomb's 29 year tenure, which will continue at least through the end of July. Though no specific date has been given, Binstock says he will begin work as MAG's seventh director "on or around September 1."