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The Phillips Collection Appoints Klaus Ottmann First Curator at Large

Dorothy Kosinski, director of The Phillips Collection, has announced the appointment of Klaus Ottmann as the museum’s first Curator at Large, a newly created position supported by a major grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. He will direct the activities of The Phillips Collection Center for the Study of Modern Art, established in 2007 to engage varied audiences in conversations about modern and contemporary art.

“In addition to being a seasoned curator and well-respected scholar, Klaus brings to the Phillips deep expertise in publishing and new technologies. His appointment ties directly to the vitality of the Center and the concept of the Phillips as an experiment station,” commented Kosinski.

Ottmann comes to the Phillips from the Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, N.Y., where he was Robert Lehman Curator. He has organized more than 40 exhibitions for museums worldwide, including the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the Dallas Museum or Art, the Haus der Kunst in Munich, Germany, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, the Schirn Kunsthalle in Frankfurt, Germany, and the Musée d’art moderne et contemporain in Strasbourg, France. He was curator of the 2006 SITE Santa Fe International Biennial, and of major traveling retrospectives of the works of Rackstraw Downes, Wolfgang Laib, and James Lee Byars. He also organized monographic exhibitions on, among others, Fairfield Porter, Franz Erhard Walter, Kiki Smith, and Mark Morrisroe. While curator of exhibitions for eight years at Wesleyan University, he instituted a program of exhibitions in international contemporary art and taught the university’s first course on contemporary theory and exhibition practice, and subsequently has taught courses at the Museum of Modern Art and the School of Visual Arts in New York. He was also a curator of exhibitions at the American Federation of Arts in New York.

Educated in both art history and philosophy with an M.A. from the Freie Universität Berlin and a Ph.D. in philosophy from the European Graduate School, Saas-Fee, Switzerland, Ottmann has written extensively on contemporary art, art theory, and the philosophy of art. A noted Yves Klein scholar, Ottmann has translated the complete writings of Klein into English for the first time and published two major books on Klein, Yves Klein By Himself: His Life and Philosophy and Yves Klein: Works, Writings. He is also the author of The Essential Mark Rothko and The Genius Decision: The Extraordinary and the Postmodern Condition.

He is the editor-in-chief of Spring Publications (, a small publishing house based in Connecticut that specializes in books on psychology, philosophy, mythology, and writings by artists, and the publisher and editor of an early online publication, the Journal of Contemporary Art ( He initiated pioneering Web-based artist projects created with, among others, the artists Vik Muniz, Renée Green, and Andrei Roiter.

“My foremost interest has always been in communicating creative ideas. New challenges exist for museums and curators in balancing an unmediated aesthetic experience with the increasing impact of new media and technologies on our culture,” said Ottmann. “I look forward to carrying Duncan Phillips’s extraordinary vision of The Phillips Collection as a place for both experience and interpretation into the 21st century.”
This position is made possible by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a not-for-profit agency in New York City that makes grants in five core areas: higher education and scholarship, scholarly communications and information technology, museums and art conservation, performing arts, and conservation and the environment. The Foundation’s grantmaking philosophy is to build, strengthen and sustain institutions and their core capacities. As such, they develop thoughtful, long-term collaborations with grant recipients and invest sufficient funds for an extended period to accomplish the purpose at hand and achieve meaningful results. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation was formed in 1969, through the consolidation of The Avalon Foundation, established in 1940 by Andrew W. Mellon’s daughter, Ailsa Mellon Bruce, and The Old Dominion Foundation, established in 1941 by Andrew W. Mellon’s son, Paul Mellon, to honor their father.

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