BOSTON (June 18, 2019)—Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), announced today two new appointments and three promotions. Christopher Atkins has been named as the inaugural Van Otterloo-Weatherbie Director of the Center for Netherlandish Art (CNA), an innovative center for scholarship on Dutch and Flemish art of the early modern period, which will launch in 2020 in conjunction with the 150th anniversary of the Museum’s founding. Ethan Lasser has been appointed as the Chair, Art of the Americas, to oversee the MFA’s world-class collection of paintings, sculpture and decorative arts created throughout North, Central and South America over a span of 3,000 years. Both will report directly to Teitelbaum. Additionally, the Museum has promoted Kristen Gresh to Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Senior Curator of Photographs, Karen Haas to Lane Senior Curator of Photographs and Layla Bermeo to Kristin and Roger Servison Associate Curator of Paintings, Art of the Americas, effective immediately.
“Christopher and Ethan’s leadership will be critical as we continue to explore the changing nature of art museums and their relationship to the public. The MFA’s collections of Netherlandish and American art are among the best in the country, and I look forward to seeing Christopher and Ethan collaborate with colleagues on new and creative approaches for connecting our visitors to the many histories of art,” said Teitelbaum. “It is also with great pleasure that we take this opportunity to recognize Kristen, Karen and Layla, who have made extraordinary contributions through groundbreaking exhibitions, publications and programs at the MFA.”
Assuming his role on August 5, Atkins will set the course for the future of the CNA, the first resource of its kind in the U.S. The Center was established with funding included in a transformative 2017 gift from longtime MFA supporters Rose-Marie and Eijk van Otterloo and Susan and Matthew Weatherbie, who also pledged their exceptional collections of 17th-century Dutch and Flemish art and a major research library to the Museum. The mission of the CNA is to share Dutch and Flemish works with wide audiences in Boston and around the world, stimulate multidisciplinary research and object-based learning, nurture future generations of scholars and curators in the field, and expand public appreciation for Netherlandish art. Atkins brings nearly two decades of experience in curatorial and educational work to this new role. He comes to the MFA from the Philadelphia Museum of Art, where he currently serves as the Agnes and Jack Mulroney Associate Curator of European Painting & Sculpture before 1900 and Manager of Curatorial Digital Program and Initiatives. His primary curatorial responsibilities centered on the museum’s early Netherlandish, Dutch, Flemish and German paintings created between 1400 and 1700. He organized the international loan exhibition Wrath of the Gods: Masterpieces by Rubens, Michelangelo, and Titian (2015) and co-curated Old Masters Now: Celebrating the Johnson Collection (2017–2018). Accompanying these exhibitions Atkins contributed a single-author catalogue and edited and co-directed the museum’s first digital publication, respectively. He is also the author of the book The Signature Style of Frans Hals: Painting, Subjectivity, and the Market in Early Modernity (Amsterdam University Press, 2012) and lectures nationally and internationally on various aspects of northern European art. Atkins’ extensive teaching experience includes both faculty positions and visiting professorships at the University of Pennsylvania, University of Delaware, The City University of New York and Northwestern University. After completing his bachelor’s degree at the University of Kansas, he earned his master’s degree and doctorate at Rutgers University, during which he also studied at the Rijksuniversiteit Leiden in the Netherlands. Atkins’ new position as the Van Otterloo-Weatherbie Director of the CNA marks his return to the MFA, where he previously served as a curatorial research associate in the Art of Europe from 2002 to 2006.
Lasser will begin his role as the Chair, Art of the Americas, on September 16. He currently serves as the Theodore E. Stebbins Jr. Curator of American Art and Head of the Division of European and American Art at the Harvard Art Museums. At the MFA, Lasser will shape the vision for the Art of the Americas department, leading staff in developing an engaging portfolio of exhibitions, publications, programs and initiatives, deepening relationships with donors, and continuing to build and preserve the collection. A specialist in early America, Lasser is dedicated to working with a range of collaborators to broaden the understanding of American art, and committed to exploring the links between past and present to make the nation’s artistic legacy relevant and exciting to audiences today. At Harvard, he has been responsible for the collection of American art, overseeing major acquisitions of art by African Americans, Modernist paintings, decorative arts and paintings from the Civil War era. Lasser has been a member of the museums’ senior leadership team since 2015, overseeing the curatorial division responsible for the collections of American and European art. He co-curated the upcoming exhibition Winslow Homer: Eyewitness (opening September 2019) and was the lead curator for The Philosophy Chamber: Art and Science in Harvard’s Teaching Cabinet, 1776–1820 (2017) and the installation of a suite of new galleries that debuted when the museums re-opened in 2014 after a major renovation designed by Renzo Piano. In 2018, Lasser was a fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership in New York and earlier in 2019, he co-founded The MARCH Project, a curatorial training initiative with the Alliance of Historically Black College and University Museums and Art Galleries. Prior to assuming his post at Harvard, Lasser served as Curator of the Chipstone Foundation in Milwaukee, where he curated multiple shows including a 2010 project with contemporary artist Theaster Gates entitled To Speculate Darkly: Theaster Gates and Dave the Potter. Lasser graduated from Williams College and received his doctorate from Yale University. In 2012, he was awarded the Philip and Patricia Frost Award for excellence in scholarship in the field of American art history. Lasser succeeds Elliot Bostwick Davis, who served as the MFA’s John Moors Cabot Chair, Art of the Americas, for 18 years before being appointed as the Director and CEO of the Norton Museum of Art in 2018.
Gresh has been working at the MFA since 2012, most recently as the Estrellita and Yousuf Karsh Curator of Photographs. Her first major exhibition at the Museum was She Who Tells a Story: Women Photographers from Iran and the Arab World (2013–2014), which garnered critical praise and continues to tour venues across the country. Most recently, Gresh organized Graciela Iturbide’s Mexico (2019), the first major East Coast presentation of the artist’s work, and authored the accompanying catalogue. She is currently working on Viewpoints: Photographs from the Howard Greenberg Collection (opening August 2019), an exhibition of highlights from a transformative acquisition for the MFA’s Photography department. Prior to joining the MFA, Gresh lived in Paris and Cairo for 15 years, where she worked as a curator and taught the history of photography. She completed her undergraduate studies at the University of New Hampshire and Sarah Lawrence College’s Parisian Study Abroad Program and earned her master’s degree and doctorate in the history of photography at the School of Advanced Studies in Social Sciences in Paris.
Haas has served as the Lane Curator of Photographs at the MFA since 2001. She is responsible for overseeing the Lane Collection, renowned for its deep holdings of work by major American Modernist photographers including Charles Sheeler, Edward Weston, Ansel Adams and Imogen Cunningham. Her recent exhibitions include Ansel Adams in Our Time (2018–2019), (un)expected families (2017–2018), Imogen Cunningham: In Focus (2016–2017) and Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott (2014). Before joining the MFA, Haas held various curatorial positions in Boston-area museums and private collections, including the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Boston University Art Gallery and the Addison Gallery of American Art. She received her bachelor’s degree from Connecticut College and her master’s degree from Boston University. Haas is the author of numerous publications, including Edward Weston: The Early Years, Gordon Parks: Back to Fort Scott, An Enduring Vision: Photographs from the Lane Collection, Ansel Adams and The Photography of Charles Sheeler: American Modernist.
Bermeo joined the MFA in 2016 as the Kristin and Roger Servison Assistant Curator of American Paintings. Most recently, she organized Frida Kahlo and Arte Popular (on view through June 19, 2019), the Museum’s first-ever Kahlo exhibition, and co-curated Collecting Stories: Native American Art (2018–2019), which explored the range of perspectives, motivations and voices involved in building the early holdings of Native American art at the MFA. Previously, Bermeo co-curated the Black History/Art History Performance Art Series at Harvard University, held curatorial fellowships at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Williams College Museum of Art, and served as a guest curator at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. She received her bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University and graduate degrees from Williams College and Harvard University. WBUR, a National Public Radio news station, recently named Bermeo as one of the ARTery 25, a cohort of 25 millennials of color impacting art and culture in Boston.