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Monday, July 14, 2003

Ned Rifkin, director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, announced today the appointment of Olga Viso as the museum’s deputy director. Viso joined the curatorial department of the Hirshhorn in 1995, and has served as curator of contemporary art since 2000. Viso will begin her new position on Oct. 1. As deputy director, Viso will work closely with Rifkin in the strategic planning, artistic direction and daily management of the museum, and will play a key role in implementing a revitalized vision for the nation’s museum of modern and contemporary art.

During her eight years with the museum, Viso has been instrumental in the acquisition of numerous important contemporary works, and has organized significant exhibitions of leading artists such as Ernesto Neto (2002), Sam Taylor-Wood (1999) and the upcoming retrospective “Ana Mendieta, Sculpture and Performance, 1972-1985,” which will open at the Hirshhorn next fall following a presentation at the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Since 2002, Viso has served on the Federal Advisory Committee on International Exhibitions—the committee that selects projects to represent the United States in international biennials, including the selection of Fred Wilson’s work for exhibition in the current Venice Biennale—and served as co-commissioner for the U.S. Pavilion, featuring the work of Robert Gober, at the 2001 Venice Biennale.

“Olga brings outstanding leadership skills and a highly respected curatorial track record to the position of deputy director,” said Rifkin. “The Hirshhorn is committed to presenting art as a vital part of contemporary life and serving as a model for innovative museum practices. Olga’s scholarly experience, management skills and insight will be integral to realizing this important new direction as the Hirshhorn approaches its 30th year.”

Born in Florida to Cuban émigré parents, Viso, 36, received her master’s degree in art history from Emory University in Atlanta in 1992. She worked at the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, holding positions in the department of modern and contemporary art and the offices of the registrar and director from 1989 to 1993. She became assistant curator at the Norton Museum of Art in West Palm Beach in 1993, where she helped develop a strong presence for the work of contemporary artists by organizing solo exhibitions of Cindy Sherman’s photographs and Elaine Reichek’s mixed media ruminations on Native American themes, as well as a group exhibition of the work of María Brito, María Martínez-Cañas, María Magdalena Campos-Pons and Ana Mendieta.

Viso joined the Hirshhorn as assistant curator, became associate curator in 1998 and curator of contemporary art in 2000. She has led the museum’s “Directions” program—a showcase for emerging artists—bringing to the attention of Smithsonian audiences artists such as Cathy de Monchaux (2000), Toba Khedoori (1997-1998) and Beverly Semmes (1996). She co-organized “Distemper: Dissonant Themes in the Art of the 1990s” (1996), “Regarding Beauty: A View of the Late Twentieth Century” (1999-2000) and “Juan Muñoz,” a major retrospective of the late Spanish sculptor, shown at the Hirshhorn in late 2001 and now on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. In addition to her current research on Mendieta, Viso is planning a survey of the work of Guillermo Kuitca, an Argentine painter, scheduled to premiere at the Hirshhorn in the summer of 2006.

Viso is a member of the Fabric Workshop and Museum Advisory Committee. She also serves as a juror for the Federal Art in Architecture Program. She is a member of the Washington Sculptors Group board and has served on the board of School 33 Art Center in Baltimore.

This is the first time since 1995 that the museum has had a deputy director. The decision to re-institute the position comes as the Hirshhorn approaches its 30th anniversary in 2004 and at the same time as the launch of “Gyroscope,” a new approach to presenting the permanent collection that encourages visitors to experience art from a variety of perspectives, each designed to provoke curiosity, discovery and revelation. The museum’s collection includes more than 11,000 works. Attendance at the museum in 2002 was 700,000, making it one of the most visited institutions of modern and contemporary art in the world.

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