Veteran New York Curator Deborah Cullen-Morales Has Been Appointed Director of the Bronx Museum

The veteran of the Wallach Art Gallery and El Museo del Barrio replaces the museum's late director Holly Block.

Deborah Cullen-Morales, the former director of the Bronx Museum. Photo: John Pinderhughes.

Deborah Cullen-Morales, the director of Columbia University’s Wallach Art Gallery, has been named the next leader of the Bronx Museum of the Arts. She replaces Holly Block, the museum’s director of 11 years, who died of breast cancer last fall at the age of 58. Cullen-Morales, a Bronx resident, will take up the post in July.

The Bronx Museum has experienced a period of both growth and tumult in recent years. Its attendance grew substantially during Block’s tenure, during which time it organized popular and scholarly exhibitions of work by artists including Gordon Matta-Clark and the popular AIM Biennial. The museum also cemented its international reputation by sponsoring the United States’s pavilion at the 2013 Venice Biennale. 

“Holly took the Bronx Museum through a period of significant growth and positive change,” the chairman of the museum’s board Joe Mizzi told the New York Times. “Those are big shoes to fill.”

But at the same time, the board disagreed on key issues, notably over ambitious plans for international projects and collaborations with Cuba, which led two board members to step down in 2016. (“That was two years ago and really hasn’t played any role whatsoever,” Mizzi told the NYT.)

Cullen-Morales comes to the Bronx Museum with a strong track record of ambitious curatorial collaborations that manage to bridge both the local and the global. She significantly expanded the scope of the Wallach’s programming by putting on shows with artists from Latin America, the Caribbean, and the African diaspora. She also opened a new exhibition space in West Harlem and started the Uptown Triennial to showcase artists based in northern Manhattan. 

Under her leadership, the university art gallery welcomed seven times more visitors last year than in 2012, when she took over. Prior to her tenure at the Wallach, she worked at New York’s El Museo del Barrio for 15 years, most recently as director of curatorial programming.

When she joins the museum, she will be tasked with shepherding its ongoing $25 million capital campaign.

“The Bronx Museum of the Art’s mission and innovative programs intersect with my passion for working with emerging talents and exploring a diversity of contemporary production through crucial, accessible programming rooted in community,” Cullen-Morales said in a statement. “Now more than ever, in light of the pressing issues of our current moment, the Bronx Museum needs to resonate locally, yet project nationally and internationally.”

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