Campus & Community

Harvard Art Museums director named

6 min read

Martha Tedeschi coming from Art Institute of Chicago

Harvard University Provost Alan Garber today announced the appointment of Martha Tedeschi as the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums, beginning in July. Tedeschi, currently the deputy director for art and research at the Art Institute of Chicago, succeeds Thomas W. Lentz, who departed in July 2015.

“Martha Tedeschi stood out among a pool of exceptional candidates. We are pleased that she will lead the Harvard Art Museums into the future, while building on the superb work of Tom Lentz and the museums’ dedicated staff,” Garber said. “The Harvard Art Museums are among the nation’s largest and most important art collections and are also a critical resource for research, teaching, and learning at Harvard. Martha’s passion for teaching students across all disciplines and experience in training the next generation of scholars, curators, and conservators will enable her to advance the museums’ academic and cultural missions.”

In her current role, Tedeschi is responsible for the management of the departments most closely related to the Art Institute of Chicago’s commitment to research and scholarship. Tedeschi directs a staff of nearly 225, including the museum’s libraries and archives, publishing and imaging, academic programs, and conservation and conservation science departments. She oversees the activities of 11 curatorial departments and also serves as the Institute’s academic liaison to local universities and foundations.

“We are so pleased to welcome Martha Tedeschi at a moment of remarkable opportunity for the Harvard Art Museums,” said Harvard President Drew Faust. “Her expertise and leadership will elevate our extraordinary collections and integrate them more fully into Harvard’s intellectual life, challenging our community to grow as we seek to interpret and change the world. The arts are essential to the University’s highest purposes, and I look forward to the ways in which they will continue to flourish under her direction.”

Tedeschi will take charge of a recently reinvented Harvard Art Museums at 32 Quincy St. in Cambridge. Stunningly redesigned and expanded by Renzo Piano Building Workshop and reopened in 2014, the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums invite students, faculty, scholars, and the public into one of the world’s great institutions for arts scholarship and research. In the Harvard Art Museums’ new home, the collections are more accessible than ever before. Visitors are able to explore new research connected to the objects on display and the ideas they generate in the galleries; gain a glimpse of leading conservators at work; and in the unique Art Study Center, have hands-on experiences with a wide range of objects from the collections.

“The Harvard Art Museums have been brilliantly reimagined by the recent renovation and I am exhilarated at the prospect of leading them at this moment to realize their enormous potential,” said Tedeschi. “I look forward to working with the full range of the art collections, the talented staff of the museum, and collaborators across the University and in the community to fully activate the building, nurturing a dynamic and inclusive laboratory for considerations of the visual in our lives.”

Tedeschi earned her B.A. from Brown University and her Ph.D. from Northwestern University, both in art history. She is a specialist in British and American art, with a strong interest in the history of printmaking in early modern Europe. She was president of the Print Council of America from 2009 to 2013, currently serves on the board of the Association of Art Museum Curators, and was awarded a fellowship to the Center for Curatorial Leadership in 2012.

Tedeschi has written, edited, or contributed to scores of books and scholarly journals in her field. She is the general editor and co-author of “The Lithographs of James McNeill Whistler” (1998), winner of the George Wittenborn Award for excellence in art publishing in that year. She has also organized numerous exhibitions, including “Watercolors by Winslow Homer: A Medium for Modernism” (2008) as well as its sequel, “John Marin’s Watercolors: A Medium for Modernism” (2011), and more recently, “Undressed: The Fashion of Privacy” (2013).

“Over her distinguished tenure at the Art Institute of Chicago, as a curator and more recently as deputy director of art and research, Martha Tedeschi has evolved an ever more rich and compelling vision for the expanded potential of the museum as a teaching institution capable of engaging diverse audiences by providing access to the museums’ encyclopedic collections in new and creative ways,” said Douglas Druick, who recently retired as the Art Institute’s president and Eloise W. Martin Director.

Tedeschi began her career at the Art Institute of Chicago as a National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) intern in 1982, and became a full curator in 1999. Prior to assuming her current role, she served as longtime curator in the museum’s Department of Prints, where she had previously contributed in numerous other roles since 1982.

As a visionary museum leader, she implemented an ambitious Andrew W. Mellon Foundation partnership with the University of Chicago and Northwestern University around teaching graduate students from objects; and oversaw a major pilot project — Mellon’s Undergraduate Curatorial Fellowship Program — designed to offer training and mentoring to students who support the important goal of fostering inclusive, pluralistic museums and increasing the engagement of historically underrepresented groups in the curatorial field. She also spearheaded the Art Institute’s comprehensive assessment and digitization of its permanent collection and led the museum’s pioneering program for producing online scholarly publications.

About the Harvard Art Museums

Together, the Harvard Art Museums’ internationally renowned collections consist of approximately 250,000 objects from the ancient world to the present and across all media, including objects from the Americas, Europe, North Africa, the Mediterranean, and Asia. The Fogg Museum’s collection is known for its extensive holdings of European and American art. The Busch-Reisinger Museum, the only museum of its kind in North America, is devoted solely to the art of central and northern Europe, with a particular emphasis on art from German-speaking countries, and features significant works of late medieval sculpture as well as German art after 1880. The Arthur M. Sackler Museum contains one of the most significant collections of Asian art in the West, with substantial holdings of archaic Chinese jades, ancient bronzes, Buddhist sculpture, ceramics, Japanese works on paper, and Korean art. The Harvard Art Museums is also home to the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, a world leader in fine arts conservation, research and training, and the birthplace of art conservation and conservation science in the United States.