According to reliable sources, MCA Denver will soon announce that Adam Lerner, the director of the Lab at Belmar, is to be hired as its new executive director. The MCA is supposed to have mounted an international search, so it does seem strange that the institution wound up finding Cydney Payton's successor in Lakewood, of all places. So the news, though not unexpected, is something of a disappointment.
One reason the selection isn't surprising has to do with the web of interconnections between Lerner and the chairman of the MCA's board of trustees, Mark Falcone, who is also a member of the search committee that was charged with finding a new director. Falcone founded the Lab and hired Lerner as its first director. The specialty of the Lab is a kind of neo-dada approach -- most notably the "Mixed Taste" series of lectures in which two speakers expound on unrelated topics.
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Another strange connection in this story is the one between Lerner and the Denver Art Museum's director, Lewis Sharp. Approximately ten years ago, Sharp hired Lerner as the master teacher in the modern and contemporary department. Sharp subsequently served on the board of the Lab, and more recently, he consulted with the MCA's search committee. This means the MCA will now have an unholy alliance with the DAM that's strikingly odd and almost offensive. After all, MCA was started up in the first place as an alternative to the DAM. The original founders of the MCA must be hopping mad about all this.
Expect Lerner to transfer his educational focus from the Lab to the MCA, thereby causing the main focus of the institution to be on lectures, not exhibits. Too bad.
Update, 8:30 a.m.: Adam Lerner's appointment as new executive director of MCA Denver is now official. Here's the press release:
ADAM LERNER TO LEAD THE MUSEUM OF CONTEMPORARY ART DENVER
MCA DENVER AND THE LAB AT BELMAR TO JOIN FORCES
DENVER, February 24, 2009 - The MCA DENVER Board of Trustees announced today that Adam Lerner has been selected as the new Director for the Museum of Contemporary Art Denver.
After an exhaustive six month nationwide search, Lerner was selected for his curatorial expertise and unique ability to advance MCA DENVER's vision to engage broad audiences in exploring art and ideas. He is a frequent speaker and consultant to prestigious art institutions and museums across the country, focusing on eliminating the traditional boundaries between curation and education in contemporary art.
Lerner is currently the Executive Director at The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar in Lakewood and was previously Master Teacher for Modern and Contemporary Art at the Denver Art Museum. He received his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University and his Masters from Cambridge University.
"We're thrilled to have Adam on board. He's nationally recognized as a leading innovator and he has helped redefine the 21st century museum experience," said MCA DENVER Board Vice President and Search Committee Chair Alan Becker.
In addition to Lerner's appointment at MCA DENVER, the Boards of Trustees of MCA DENVER and The Lab at Belmar have agreed to merge the two institutions integrating The Lab at Belmar's renowned programming into MCA DENVER.
"MCA DENVER's ability to engage the community and advance Denver as an innovative center for art and culture will be greatly enhanced by these two institutions joining forces under Adam's expertise," said MCA DENVER Board Chair Mark Falcone.
MCA DENVER will continue to inspire and challenge audiences about art of our time with its rotating exhibits and will begin to incorporate The Lab's educational programming beginning summer, 2009.
About MCA DENVER
MCA DENVER is a non-collecting institution acting as an incubator for art and ideas, artistic exchange and dialog. As Denver's first institution devoted entirely to contemporary art, MCA DENVER inaugurated its new environmentally sustainable facility, designed by David Adjaye, on October 28, 2007. The 27,000 square foot space, located in the Lower Downtown area, is on track to receive the distinction of Gold level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). The design of the building supports rather than defines the Museum's mission and demonstrates the Museum's commitment to sustainability. MCA DENVER marks David Adjaye's first public building in the U.S. as well as his first contemporary art museum worldwide.
Continuing investment in exhibitions of artworks by local, national and international artists, MCA DENVER has five distinct galleries, three spaces for education, multiple sites for special projects/commissioned works and one live art and lecture hall as potential sites for work in all media. These galleries and spaces have been envisioned as platforms for multi-level curatorial possibilities. The exhibition areas are thus seen as a curatorial rubric for interaction between artists, works of art, curatorial practice and interpretive dialog. Learn more about MCA DENVER at: http://www.mcadenver.org/
About The Lab at Belmar
The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar is an institution dedicated to art and thought which combines elements of museum, think tank, and public forum. The Lab is located in Belmar, a 104-acre, mixed-use development in Lakewood Colorado. In its dual role as a gallery and a community space, The Lab presents international contemporary art exhibitions and experimental public programs including lectures, film screenings, performances, and more. In addition to exhibitions, The Lab presents live programming including lectures, symposia, and music performance. The Lab has continued to build upon its successful lecture series, which combine a sophisticated discussion of ideas with elements of humor, irony and chance.
Launched in 2004 out of a Belmar storefront, the Lab began as a collaboration between Continuum Partners and the Denver Art Museum, where Lab director Adam Lerner was formerly Master Teacher for Modern and Contemporary Art. Lerner and Lewis Sharp, Director of the Denver Art Museum, worked together to develop The Lab as a center for experimental programming that goes beyond the traditional art museum or gallery. Learn more about the Lab at Belmar by visiting: http://www.belmarlab.org/
About Adam Lerner
Adam Lerner is the founder and Executive Director of The Laboratory of Art and Ideas at Belmar (The Lab). He was the Master Teacher for Modern and Contemporary Art at the Denver Art Museum from 2001 to 2003, and he was the Curator of the Contemporary Museum, Baltimore, before coming to Colorado. Adam is nationally recognized as a leading innovator in redefining the museum experience, frequently serving as a speaker and consultant to museum and educational institutions across the country. He also has created programming that is being emulated by a number of prestigious contemporary art institutions. He received his Ph.D. from the Johns Hopkins University and his Masters from Cambridge University. He was a Pre-doctoral fellow at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (1997-8) and is currently (2008-10) a Livingston Fellow of the Bonfils-Stanton Foundation, awarded to emerging leaders in the nonprofit sector.