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Memorial Art Gallery Director Jonathan Binstock headed for Washington, D.C.

 Jonathan Binstock, who has been the Director of the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester for the last eight years, will soon be heading up The Phillips Collection, a museum of modern art in Washington, D.C.
The Phillips Collection
Jonathan Binstock, who has been the Director of the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester for the last eight years, will soon be heading up The Phillips Collection, a museum of modern art in Washington, D.C.

The Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester will need a new director. It was announced Wednesday that Jonathan Binstock, who has led that museum for the last eight years, has been named the new Director and CEO of a well-known art museum in Washington D.C., The Phillips Collection.

“We are delighted with the selection of Jonathan, the result of an exhaustive year-long search,” says Phillips Board Chair John Despres. “He brings deep knowledge of the Phillips and the Washington, DC, art community. His track record in building a stellar contemporary art collection, with commissions from internationally important figures including Rashid Johnson and Isaac Julien, promises to catapult our own collection growth to new levels of excellence.”

“The Phillips Collection is a museum I have treasured since first moving to Washington in 1994 to research my Ph.D. dissertation on (D.C. artist) Sam Gilliam,” said Binstock. “I am thrilled and deeply honored to serve as the Phillips’ new Vradenburg Director and CEO. Art has the potential to change how people see themselves and the world around them; art museums have an essential role to play in civil society.”

Under Binstock, the Memorial Art Gallery addressed significant social issues, such as AIDS, with an expansive exhibit called “Up Against the Wall: Art, Activism, and the AIDS Poster.” More recently, the museum presented an exhibit of works by Andy Warhol. And Binstock navigated the MAG through the height of the COVID closings, with its annual September event, the Clothesline Festival, held as a virtual-only event in 2020.

During an interview with WXXI News on Wednesday, Binstock added that, “We believe it is really important to integrate the MAG into the community and to do that as seamlessly as possible.”

Binstock’s presence can be witnessed even from East Avenue. He commissioned “Argentum: Double-Positive,” which each evening convert ed the front façade of the older wing of the MAG, the 1913 Building, into a shimmering canvas of projected light and text. He said that, "Illuminating the beautiful campus and the beautiful buildings with works of art at night is a way to call attention to the MAG to the community and add life to the campus.”

In a press release issued by The Phillips Collection, it stated that, during his tenure in Rochester, Binstock “led an expansion and diversification of the museum’s permanent collection, special exhibition program, public engagement and outreach efforts, and audience, as well as a significant increase in the museum’s annual budget.”

The MAG is operated by the University of Rochester, and its president, Sarah Manglesdorf issued a statement Wednesday:

“Jonathan’s vision as a leader and a scholar has helped reaffirm the Memorial Art Gallery’s position as a cultural treasure for the University and for the Greater Rochester region. His legacy will live on in his innovative ideas on how the arts and creativity enrich our lives and our communities. Although this is clearly a loss for the Memorial Art Gallery, the University, and the broader Rochester community, the fact that Jonathan’s vision and leadership have been recognized by such a nationally and internationally recognized institution is something to celebrate,” said Manglesdorf.

There was no immediate word on how the MAG will carry out the search for Binstock’s successor. He will stay on into February and start his new job March 1.

Binstock came to Rochester in 2014 from New York City, where he was a senior vice president and senior advisor in modern and contemporary art for Citi Private Bank’s Art Advisory & Finance Group. His responsibilities there included working with clients and their families to build personal art collections.

Binstock also served as curator of contemporary art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., from 2000 to 2007. Prior to that, Binstock was assistant curator at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia.

Copyright 2022 WXXI News

Jeff Spevak has been a Rochester arts reporter for nearly three decades, with seven first-place finishes in the Associated Press New York State Features Writing Awards while working for the Democrat and Chronicle. He has also been published in Musician and High Times magazines, contributed to WXXI, City newspaper and Post magazine, and occasionally performs spoken-word pieces around town. Some of his haikus written during the Rochester jazz festival were self-published in a book of sketches done by Scott Regan, the host of WRUR’s Open Tunings show. Spevak founded an award-winning barbecue team, The Smokin’ Dopes, and believes Bigfoot is real. His book on the life of a Lake Ontario sailor who survived the sinking of his ship during World War II will be published in April of 2019 by Lyons Press.
Randy Gorbman is WXXI's Director of News and Public Affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.