Aspen Art Museum names Nicola Lees as new director |

Aspen Art Museum names Nicola Lees as new director

Andrew Travers
The Aspen Times
Nicola Lees has been named director of the Aspen Art Museum. Her tenure begins April 6.
COurtesy photo

The Aspen Art Museum announced Wednesday the appointment of British curator Nicola Lees as its new director.

Lees comes to the museum from her post as director and curator of New York University’s contemporary art space 80 Washington Square East Gallery (80WSE). Like the Aspen Art Museum, it is admission-free, nonprofit and focuses on contemporary work.

“I’m very excited to begin this new chapter of the Aspen Art Museum’s history,” Lees, who is scheduled to begin April 6, said in the announcement. “I look forward to working closely with the board of trustees, the team at the Museum, and Aspen’s Roaring Fork Valley communities to bring the Aspen Art Museum to its next exciting stage of development.”

She had run 80WSE since 2016. Before that, Lees served as a curator at the Frieze Foundation, London’s Serpentine Gallery and the Irish Museum of Modern Art.

She drew international attention from the art world while curating more than 40 large-scale installations for the Frieze Projects London art fair with artists like Cerith Wyn Evans and Kim Gordon. Recent exhibitions in New York include those with Lutz Bacher, John Giorno, Harun Farocki and Louise Lawler.

“Nicola is an energetic, innovative and visionary institutional leader and her knowledge of and passion for contemporary art is evident through a host of ambitious and globally relevant large-scale exhibitions and projects featuring many of the most important established and emerging artists of our time,” reads a statement from board of trustees members John Phelan, Amnon Rodan and Paul Pariser. “Her curatorial acumen is only equalled by her exemplary reputation, among her colleagues and peers, as one of the field’s most knowledgeable experts, and consummate and admired professionals.”

Lees follows longtime director Heidi Zuckerman at the helm of the Aspen institution. Zuckerman led the museum from 2005 until summer 2019 and ushered the effort to build its downtown Shigeru Ban-designed facility, which opened in 2014.

The museum board formed a search committee shortly after Zuckerman’s departure in late June. Through the process, this committee wrote, the boardmembers “remained impressed and moved by Nicola’s energy, excitement, and enthusiasm for our institution and its goals.”

“Nicola shares both the strategic vision and values that guide our mission,” the board members added in their statement, “and we are confident in her abilities to provide our diverse audience with valuable experiences of the most important international contemporary arts programming today.”

The director position — endowed by Nancy and Bob Magoon, for whom the director position is named — includes overseeing the curatorial and programmatic aspect of the museum, as well as financial operations and fundraising.

“The Aspen Art Museum’s spectacular location, extraordinary architecture, and its flexible model for the commissioning of artworks and contemporary art exhibitions create incredible opportunities for both artists and our audiences,” Lees said in the announcement. “The institution’s artist-centered focus allows a diverse range of practitioners the freedom, flexibility and depth of focus required to develop ambitious and challenging new work and facilitates the development of dynamic communities around contemporary art.”