On May 8, the Dia Art Foundation appointed Yasmil Raymond, associate curator at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, as its next curator. In September, Ms. Raymond will replace Lynne Cooke, who has held the position since 1991.
Dia Art Foundation director Philippe Vergne, who was primarily responsible for the selection, told The Observer in a phone interview that he first met Ms. Raymond five years ago, while overseeing the expansion of the Walker as its deputy director. She was in the curatorial fellowship program.
“She was so good we decided to keep her,” Mr. Vergne said, adding that he was especially impressed by an exhibition Ms. Raymond curated that combined the politically engaged works of Joseph Beuys with Donald Judd’s platonic formalism. “The tension between them is what defines her work,” he said. “She is someone who can give a form to the questions that shape our time.”
Ms. Raymond, 31, who grew up in Puerto Rico and earned degrees from the Art Institute of Chicago and the Bard Center for Curatorial Studies before going on to the Walker, will join Dia in the midst what Mr. Vergne describes as “a process of transition.” Since vacating its Chelsea site in January 2004, Dia has been without a permanent New York City location. Mr. Vergne declined to comment on Dia’s ongoing search for new space, but said in reference to the economic instability that has gripped Manhattan that it was “not necessarily a bad thing to be taking our time when things are changing so fast.”
According to Mr. Vergne, Ms. Raymond was chosen partly for her youth—“she brings a culture and artists that I’m not necessarily familiar with,” he said—and partly for her relationship with Ms. Cooke, who advised Ms. Raymond’s M.A. thesis at Bard. “There’s nothing broken here,” said Mr. Vergne of the hand-off.
Speaking to The Observer from Minneapolis, Ms. Raymond expressed unbridled enthusiasm at her new appointment. Asked about plans for Dia’s future, she recalled large, ambitious exhibitions by Jorge Pardo, Gerhard Richter and others that took place at the foundation’s former space in Chelsea.
Ms. Raymond also downplayed her youth. “Some people say I have a 52-year-old woman inside,” she said. “I agree with Dia’s philosophy that we’re here to serve artists, we’re here to defend and take care of them. … It’s not about replacing, it’s about rethinking, restarting. It’s about continuation.”
Right now, she said, she was busy installing her most recent show at the Walker: an environmental installation by Argentine architect-turned-artist Tomás Saraceno that includes wind turbines on the roof, an irrigation system and growing grass. Ms. Raymond noted with good humor that defending, supporting and making sense of the art of our time sometimes involves a little gardening, too.