The Nasher Museum will soon welcome its new director Trevor Schoonmaker, the current deputy director of curatorial affairs and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art. At 49 years old, Schoonmaker will take over leadership from Sarah Schroth on May 8, the same day that Schroth will retire after 25 years of service at Duke.
“I’m very excited to have this opportunity to lead the Nasher Museum into the future,” Schoonmaker said in a statement to the Nasher museum. “Our foundation is quite strong, thanks to the bold vision of our previous directors, Kim Rorschach and Sarah Schroth, and our talented and dedicated museum staff.”
The Nasher Museum opened in 2005 in a building designed by Rafael Viñoly. Schoonmaker joined in 2006 and became the museum’s founding curator of contemporary art, redefining its collection strategy and emphasizing works by global artists who are traditionally marginalized, especially artists of African descent. For instance, Schoonmaker curated John Akomfrah’s 2018 video installation “Precarity,” which explores the history of jazz in New Orleans through themes of risk and hybridity. In 2019, he also organized Naama Tsabar’s performance “Composition 21,” featuring 21 female and gender non-conforming artists in a live event.
Many of Schoonmaker’s exhibitions had the opportunity to travel nationally, including “Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art,” curated with Miranda Lash, “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” and “The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl.”
“Trevor is a star curator who has been instrumental in building the Nasher Museum’s contemporary art collection while establishing its reputation as one of the most respected and admired university art museums in the country,” said Duke University Provost Sally Kornbluth. “A true visionary, Trevor embodies that rare combination of gifts: a brilliant mind, the ability to prioritize and a propensity for unique ideas that are not only home runs, but are possible to execute leveraging the many talents of the Nasher staff.”
Schoonmaker holds a Bachelor of Arts in art history from UNC Chapel Hill and a Master of Arts in the history of art from the University of Michigan. Before arriving at the Nasher, he was an independent curator based in New York and has organized exhibitions at the New Museum of Contemporary Art. He also wrote and lectured on contemporary art at renowned institutions such as Tate Britain and served on the board of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts from 2010 to 2018.
At such an uncertain time when artists are struggling to keep up their artistic pursuit and the Nasher Museum remains closed as part of Duke University’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Schoonmaker hopes to open a new chapter of the art scene on campus upon the museum's reopening.
“It is wonderful to be part of this innovative university that supports new ideas and scholarship towards the goals of greater diversity and inclusion,” Schoonmaker said in a statement to the Nasher. “I welcome the challenge to take the Nasher Museum through this moment and to ascend to even greater heights. Together we will find new ways to enliven and inspire community through art.”