The University of Virginia announced today that Matthew McLendon has been appointed director and chief curator of The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia. Currently the curator of modern and contemporary art at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art in Sarasota, Florida, McLendon assumes his new role Jan. 9.
“We are thrilled to have Matthew join The Fralin,” said Jody Kielbasa, UVA’s vice provost for the arts. “The University is approaching its third century and with that, the museum is looking forward to an exciting new chapter in its own long history. We believe that Matthew provides the leadership The Fralin needs to embark on this new journey.”
Over the last six years, McLendon has revolutionized the modern and contemporary holdings and exhibitions at The Ringling, incorporating works by living visual artists while taking advantage of cultural moments to create a new curatorial style and presence. His exhibitions focus on artists working across genres and periods, enabling cross-disciplinary conversations – a practice he plans to continue at The Fralin.
“The University of Virginia is a world leader in so many disciplines,” McLendon said. “We have a tremendous opportunity at the museum to grow and engage our audiences and supporters through conversations surrounding a broad spectrum of the arts and diverse cultures. We can truly reflect an institution where history and the future are embraced together. I am honored to join The Fralin and the community of one of our nation’s great universities.”
McLendon’s time at The Ringling was marked by a reinvigorated relationship with contemporary work there, including the ongoing cross-disciplinary series “Art of Our Time,” which spotlights living visual and performing artists. “Art of Our Time” emphasizes community engagement, and has brought record highs for The Ringling in attendance, membership and philanthropy, including a recent major gift that funded a new 2,400-square-foot gallery, The Keith D. and Linda L. Monda Gallery of Contemporary Art. Four additional modern and contemporary galleries and the Kotler-Coville Glass Pavilion, currently under construction, were also initiated during McLendon’s tenure, and the museum’s holdings in modern and contemporary art significantly expanded.
“During the past six years, Matthew has built tremendous excitement around modern and contemporary art,” said Steven High, executive director of The Ringling, the state art museum of Florida. “His breadth of knowledge as an art historian and dynamic engagement with artists, audiences and donors will be of great benefit to The Fralin Museum. I am sorry to see him leave The Ringling, but I look forward to welcoming him as an art museum director colleague.”
McLendon oversaw numerous exhibitions at The Ringling, including the first museum survey of artist, composer and performer R. Luke DuBois; Trenton Doyle Hancock’s “Emit: What the Bringback Brought”; “Sanford Biggers: Codex”; and “Re:Purposed,” a survey of work from living artists working with found objects, among many others.
“The search committee and I were impressed by Matthew’s vision for the future of The Fralin,” said Architect for the University Alice Raucher, who chaired the search committee. “We all felt that Matthew exhibited the ability to work successfully with experienced colleagues, faculty, students and other stakeholders. His scholarship, experience, approach, vision and enthusiasm are exactly what the museum needs.”
Prior to joining The Ringling, McLendon was the curator of academic initiatives at the Cornell Fine Arts Museum at Rollins College; he came there from the Tate Britain, in London. McLendon holds bachelor’s degrees in music and art history from Florida State University, and master’s and doctoral degrees in the history of art from the Courtauld Institute of Art at the University of London.
“I’m delighted that Matthew will be the next museum director,” said Larry Goedde, a search committee member, professor of art history and chair of the McIntire Department of Art. “His experience, energy and professionalism will enable him to build upon The Fralin’s notable development during the last decade. I am confident he will lead the museum to new levels of engagement with the University’s teaching and research missions and service to the broader community.”
“I am grateful to Rebecca Schoenthal and Jordan Love for serving as interim co-directors of The Fralin, taking over when Bruce Boucher departed in May,” Kielbasa said. “The two were instrumental in maintaining operations and creating a smooth transition for Matthew. Rebecca will return to her position as curator of exhibitions, while Jordan resumes her role as academic curator.
“We would also like to express our gratitude to the search committee, chaired by Alice Raucher, for their creativity and thoughtfulness when recruiting the museum’s next leader. Their commitment to The Fralin’s future is evident in their choice.”
Founded in 1935, The Fralin Museum of Art at the University of Virginia maintains a collection of nearly 14,000 objects in support of its mission to serve faculty, students and the greater Charlottesville community through engaging exhibitions and programs. Its internationally traveled exhibitions and diverse permanent collection enhance its emphasis on object-based experiential learning and hands-on scholarly research, which makes The Fralin a cornerstone of the arts at the University.