Chinati Foundation Names Dr. Thomas Kellein as Director


The Chinati Foundation is pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Thomas Kellein as its next director. An accomplished art historian, curator, and museum director, Dr. Kellein, who will assume his duties in January 2011, succeeds Dr. Marianne Stockebrand, who earlier this year announced her retirement after serving as the museum’s director since 1994. Dr. Stockebrand will assume the role of Director Emeritus.

Founded by artist Donald Judd in 1986, the Chinati Foundation is located in Marfa, Texas on 340 acres of land in the high Chihuahuan desert that once comprised U. S. Army Fort D. A. Russell. The museum exhibits permanent installations of Judd’s work as well as important installations by John Chamberlain, Carl Andre, Dan Flavin, Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen, Ilya Kabakov, John Wesley, David Rabinowitch, and Roni Horn.

The selection of Dr. Kellein completes a six-month international search for the Foundation’s director. Led by a committee of Chinati board members under the direction of past-president Dr. William Jordan, the museum reviewed candidates in North America, Europe, and Australia.

At the outset of the search, the Board of the Chinati Foundation announced that it was seeking a serious art historian with a proven record as a museum administrator. Thomas Kellein fits both of these requirements. Born in Nuremberg, Germany, he received his doctorate from the University of Hamburg in 1982. An authority on Donald Judd, Dr. Kellein first worked with the artist on a proposed architectural project in Switzerland in 1990. For the past fourteen years he has served as director of the Kunsthalle Bielefeld in Bielefeld, Germany. He is a prolific author and organizer of exhibitions of contemporary art, curating in 2002 the exhibition Donald Judd: Early Work, 1955-1968, which was shown in Bielefeld and at The Menil Collection, in Houston. He has been a frequent visitor to Chinati since first being invited to visit by Donald Judd in 1991, and has lectured at the museum on several occasions, most recently at the symposium The Writings of Donald Judd in 2008.

While at Bielefeld, Dr. Kellein also organized exhibitions by such artists as Kasimir Malevich, Henri Laurens, Jeff Koons, Adam Fuss, Vanessa Beecroft, Ilya Kabakov, Alvar Aalto, Louise Bourgeois, and Yoko Ono. In 2009 he mounted the exhibition 1968: The Great Innocents, which focused on that pivotal year in world culture, and in March of this year opened The 80s Revisited, an exhibition that reassessed a generation of painters who have sometimes been undervalued. Prior to his time at Bielefeld, from 1988 to 1995 Dr. Kellein served as director of the Kunsthalle Basel in Basel, Switzerland, where he organized important exhibitions of Mark Rothko, Clyfford Still, Andy Warhol, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and the group of artists known as Fluxus.

Speaking of the appointment and the transition it represents for Chinati, Board President Arlene J. Dayton remarked: “Chinati has been extremely fortunate that its extraordinarily committed first director, Marianne Stockebrand, was able to transform a fledgling institution, founded by Donald Judd but left upon his death without the resources to support itself, into one of international stature without ever compromising Judd’s demanding standards. Only because of this distinguished record are we able to announce today a successor who can be much more than a mere custodian. Thomas Kellein brings with him a similar level of commitment to the mission of the institution, and will help ensure the stability of our future and the realization of our long-range plans. We are truly delighted to be able to entrust the Chinati Foundation to Dr. Kellein’s wise care.”

Image: Thomas Kellein Chinati Foundation

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