Rising N.Y. art critic, curator to join MOCA in North Miami


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Newly appointed Museum of Contemporary Art curator Alex Gartenfeld will give a talk at 7 p.m. Wednesday on the Rome exhibition “Empire State,’’ which he co-organized. The lecture is free with museum general admission, which is $5 and free for members and residents of North Miami. MOCA is at 770 NE 125th St., North Miami;

The Museum of Contemporary Art in North Miami has snared a trailblazing young New York critic and curator with a keen eye for fresh talent to fill a new curatorial job, cementing its growing prominence as a nurturer of significant artistic careers.

Alex Gartenfeld, 26, who rapidly established himself as a go-to exponent of cutting-edge art after graduating from Columbia University, will work under MOCA director and chief curator Bonnie Clearwater to organize exhibitions, prepare publications and oversee the museum’s public programs, which include lectures and art education for youths and adults.

The Tuesday announcement of his hiring was also hailed as confirmation of the maturation of Miami’s burgeoning art scene.

“When a rising young curator chooses Miami for his next major position, it says everything about the quality of the contemporary art world in our community, and everything about MOCA,’’said Miami art collector Dennis Scholl, vice president/arts at the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, which has supported the museum financially. “He is certainly right in the middle of the zeitgeist when it comes to contemporary art.’’

Gartenfeld, who will officially assume the job on May 10, has been referred to as a “wunderkind’’ by The New York Times and was included on Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list of people to watch in the arts. He is senior editor for online at Interview and Art in America magazines, whose web presence he helped launch. He also co-founded an alternative exhibition space in his Manhattan apartment called West Street Gallery that showed work by up-and-coming artists and became a must-see art world destination.

As an independent curator, Gartenfeld has helped organize 25 exhibitions around the globe, including the forthcoming Empire State with curator Sir Norman Rosenthal at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome, which features site-specific work by established artists like Dan Graham and Joyce Pensato.

At MOCA, Gartenfeld will help with administrative duties and extend the museum’s reach by boosting its website and organizing traveling exhibitions from its permanent collection of about 700 works.

Clearwater said MOCA, which opened in 1996 and has a full-time staff of 18, has grown to the point where she needed a second permanent curator. She said she immediately thought of Gartenfeld, and was amazed when his name kept coming up as she solicited recommendations.

“He is the brightest of the young and the brightest,’’ Clearwater said. “He understands the history of making art, and also how to approach new work no one has written about and even the artist maybe can’t explain.”

That track record for meshing rigorous scholarship and new art from the established and the virtually unknown makes Gartenfeld a perfect match for MOCA, Clearwater and Scholl said.

“They both are looking for what’s next. Bonnie has succeeded at that for 15 years,” Scholl said. “If what he brings to MOCA is anything like the Rome show, he’s going to have a great run here.”

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