It’s official. The Parrish Art Museum has a new chef at the helm.
On June 8, Parrish Board Co-Chairs Alexandra Stanton and Frederic M. Seegal and Co-Chairs Sean Cohan and Timothy G. Davis announced that Mónica Ramírez-Montagut had been named the next director of the Parrish Art Museum.
A former assistant curator at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, Ramírez-Montagut comes to this post from the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University, where she was executive director. Originally from Mexico, Ramírez-Montagut earned a master’s degree in architecture and a doctorate. in theory and history of architecture from the Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, ETSAB, Barcelona, Spain; plus a bachelor’s degree in architecture from Universidad Ibero Americana, Mexico City, Mexico.
Ramírez-Montagut takes up her post at the Parrish on July 8 and she joins the museum at an important time, as this year the museum not only celebrates its 10th anniversary in its Water Mill building, but also its 125th anniversary as arts institution. on the East End.
In a recent phone interview, Ramírez-Montagut, who will move to Bridgehampton from Michigan at the end of June, shared his first impressions of Parrish and the wider East End community, while discussing some of his ideas for the museum at the coming.
“I’ve known the Parrish for years,” Ramírez-Montagut said. “It is a leading institution that we all know. When this position opened up, I was really intrigued. This is my field in terms of passions and skills – contemporary art and an architecturally relevant building that serves the region as a leading institution – and in terms of art for young people, which excites me.
Originally from Mexico, Ramírez-Montagut looks forward to working closely with the Hispanic population of the East End and building on existing relationships, especially with young people.
“Our closest school districts have large Hispanic populations. My heart is in this mission, serving this student population,” she said, noting that in many ways the East End community is like the one she knew in Ridgefield, Connecticut, during his tenure at the Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum.
“I think the situation of being an hour and a half or two hours from New York in this kind of suburban regional area is similar to my experience in Connecticut,” she said. “I knew the movements and the functioning of the communities. I think it’s the best of both worlds and I can’t wait to be there.
Ramírez-Montagut notes that before applying for Parrish’s position, she traveled to the East End and visited the museum on a road trip with family and friends. She was impressed with what she encountered here.
“I had the best experience at the reception, saw the Jasper Johns exhibit and had a great coffee at the cafe,” she said. “It was raining, so the museum was very busy, with lots of toddlers. In the future, I see developing programs where we give the children materials so that they can draw in the museum. We also had a great lunch in Sag Harbor then went next door to Bob Wilson’s place [The Watermill Center]. We walked around these gardens, it was a magical experience.
The idea of fostering close relationships with other East End organizations and working collaboratively is something that intrigues Ramírez-Montagut and she sees a lot of potential in such endeavors.
“There’s a galaxy of really interesting sites out there and I think that’s the way to go. This is how I like to operate, to create global projects that go beyond the walls of the museum and have an impact on the whole region,” said Ramírez-Montagut, noting that when she was at the San Jose Museum of Art, she helped create an exhibition centered around food. and its role in the community, while involving partner organizations in the region.
Connecting with the different facets and components of the East End community will be a priority for Ramírez-Montagut at the Parrish. She noted that the pandemic has highlighted the important role local support plays in difficult times and at her Michigan museum she hosted an exhibit focused on community appreciation in which people submitted portraits of neighbors who cared for them during the darkest days of the pandemic.
“Gestures like this go a long way – it’s acknowledging our community,” she said. “I think we have to be mindful of identifying our audiences and making sure we’re serving them well. Who are our main audiences? If they come for the first time, they must be welcomed and recognized. If we have to attend school board meetings and announce programs, we will. If we need to do more outreach to the Shinnecock Nation, we will meet them where they are.
With his strong background and background in architecture, another aspect of the Parrish that Ramírez-Montagut finds particularly exciting is the Herzog & de Meuron building, which turns 10 this year and is, in itself, a work of art.
“I have known the architects of the building for some time. They have built top-notch buildings in Europe, so I know their work,” she said. “I like the idea that the building is inspired by the artist’s studio — taking barns and trying to work both outside and inside, combining it with the landscape and paying homage to the agricultural lands of the region. Speaking to board members, it behooves us to tell a better story of our building. It’s up to us to share the big ideas behind this building and celebrate it a little more.
“I’ve done architecture exhibits and I’m ready to start unpacking the building,” Ramírez-Montagut added. “The Guggenheim regards its building as one of the most important masterpieces. We have to do it too. Architectural relevance only adds more quality to everything we do.
“In Michigan, we also had an architecturally relevant building designed by Zaha Hadid, the first woman to receive a Pritzker Prize in architecture,” she said. “Telling our own story only adds to the total experience and also helps people feel proud of what’s in our own community.”
From the physical construction and outreach to the public understanding of the museum, Ramírez-Montagut looks forward to examining all of the different components of the Parrish and building on them to create an environment for the East End community. both inviting and inclusive.
“We have to be welcoming. From our parking lot to our restrooms, we need to be accessible to our audience,” said Ramírez-Montagut, who talks about how important it is to belong. “Sometimes it’s as simple as asking someone to say ‘Hello.’ I grew up in Mexico, when I go back there and the immigration officer stamps my passport, he says, “Welcome home.” I know it’s going to happen and I say I’m not going to cry. But I always do.