Martha Tedeschi to Lead Harvard Art Museums

Hailing from the Art Institute of Chicago, Tedeschi will assume the role next July. 

Martha Tedeschi
Martha Tedeschi
Photograph courtesy of Art Institute of Chicago/Harvard Public Affairs and Communications

The Harvard Art Museums has named Martha Tedeschi its new Cabot director, effective July 2016. She succeeds Thomas W. Lentz, Ph.D. ’85, who left last July.

Tedeschi has spent her entire professional career at the Art Institute of Chicago, arriving as an intern in 1982 and becoming a full curator in 1999. In 2012, she was named to her current position, deputy director for art and research. Responsible for managing the conservation department, publications department, and libraries and archives, Tedeschi directed a staff of nearly 225. She also assisted the Institute’s 11 curatorial departments, and served as its liaison to local universities and foundations.

This lengthy tenure overlapped with that of Lentz’s predecessor as Cabot director of the Harvard museums, James Cuno, Ph.D. ’85, who subsequently led the Institute from 2004 to 2011. Cuno oversaw that institution’s Renzo Piano-designed major construction project—its Modern Wing, adding 264,000 square feet of floor space to the tune of $370 million—before leaving for Los Angeles, and the Getty Trust, in 2011.

Tedeschi’s immediate predecessor as director, Lentz, served from 2003 to 2015. He announced his resignation mere months after the renovated museums reopened in November 2014—another Piano project. The search for a replacement began immediately, amid general upheaval in Boston’s art scene as two other longstanding museum leaders, Malcolm Rogers of the Museum of Fine Arts and Anne Hawley of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, announced their retirements within a short span.

This appointment comes as the latest and largest in a series of changes in the Harvard museums’ staff. Narayan Khandekar replaced Henry Lie as director of the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies in February 2015, and two new curators arrived the following September: A. Cassandra Albinson in European art, and Rachel M. Saunders in Asian and Mediterranean art. The museums also made two internal promotions to fill newly endowed positions: Ethan Lasser was tapped to lead the division of European and American art and named Stebbins curator of American art, and Elizabeth M. Rudy became Weyerhaeuser associate curator of prints. Deputy director Maureen Donovan and Clay chief curator Deborah Kao have served as interim co-directors since Lentz left.

Provost Alan Garber, in announcing the appointment, highlighted Tedeschi’s educational initiatives at the Art Institute: “Martha’s passion for teaching students across all disciplines and experience in training the next generation of scholars, curators, and conservators will enable her to advance the Museums’ academic and cultural missions.” These projects included a partnership with the University of Chicago and Northwestern University to train graduate students in objects-based art history research, and a program to mentor undergraduates from underrepresented groups who have an interest in curation.  

Educated at Brown, the University of Michigan, and Northwestern, Tedeschi specializes in British and American art, and particularly in the history of print-making. At the Art Institute of Chicago, she curated two well-received exhibitions of watercolors by John Marin and Winslow Homer. She is also an expert on the painter James McNeill Whistler.

Read the University announcement here.


Update: A previous version of this story's headline stated that Tedeschi will be the first female director of the Harvard Art Museums. Other women have led the museums, including Marjorie Cohn,  who served as acting director before and after James Cuno's tenure, and Agnes Mongan, who was  director of the Fogg Museum from 1969 to 1971.

Read more articles by: Sophia Nguyen

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