MoMA Photography Curator to Lead Aperture Foundation

Sarah Meister has been named executive director of the Aperture Foundation, a nonprofit organization that supports and promotes the art of photography.

Meister, 49, is a photography curator at the Museum of Modern Art, where she has spent her entire career. She succeeds Chris Boot, who is leaving after 10 years to return to his native England.

Aperture publishes photography books and a quarterly magazine, maintains a website, and sponsors talks and exhibitions. It operated a public program space in Chelsea until shortly before the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. One of the challenges facing the new executive director is the purchase or lease of new headquarters.

Founded in 1952 in San Francisco by an illustrious group that included Minor White, Ansel Adams and Dorothea Lange, Aperture has issued important monographic books by a number of photographers, including Diane Arbus, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Nan Goldin, Richard Misrach and Deana Lawson. “Aperture’s publishing program, meaning their books and magazine, are central to anyone thinking about photography today,” Meister said in a phone interview this week. “My whole career, I’ve been interested in the edges of photography. Aperture has demonstrated a deep commitment to this plurality from the start — who has been excluded, and who is saying who is in and who is out. I don’t believe photography exists in isolation, from life or from art.”

Cathy Kaplan, chair of the board of trustees, said in an interview that Meister was chosen after a search of more than a year. “We wanted to find somebody who would have a vision for Aperture as a cultural institution and where it fits into and works with other arts institutions in New York,” she said.

Since being made a MoMA curator in 2009, Meister has organized exhibitions of Bill Brandt, Walker Evans and Eugène Atget. Last year she presented the well-received retrospective “Dorothea Lange: Words & Pictures.” She is currently curating an exhibition on the Brazilian modernist photography that was produced by a club of amateurs in São Paulo in the mid-20th century. It is scheduled to open in May, at which time she will assume her new position.

At MoMA, Meister was the last person to have worked with John Szarkowski, the influential department director who dominated the field for three decades. Although Szarkowski, who died in 2007, was already director emeritus when Meister arrived at the museum fresh out of college in 1997, she assisted him on exhibitions of Atget and Evans.

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