Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston is deeply committed to exploring the changing nature of art museums today and their relationship to the public. Inclusion, community, and relevancy are key to those goals, all promises of the Museum’s Strategic Plan, MFA 2020. Because of fashion’s universal appeal and the many relationships between fashion and current issues and discourse, the position of Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts provides an exciting opportunity to play an important role in the execution of the Museum’s strategic plan through the creation of exhibitions, gallery displays and programming that boldly combines objects with ideas that excite our current audience and bring in new ones. The Museum seeks a dynamic and highly-motivated individual who is excited by these challenges for the position of Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts. The successful candidate will work under the supervision of the Chair of the Department of Contemporary Art.

In 1930, the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston established the first textile department in an American Museum. Since that time, the collection has developed into one of the most diverse in the country with material dating from 2500 BCE to the present and ranging across the globe. Although the Museum collected fashion from the beginning, it was only a major donation in 1944, with its extraordinary examples of clothing, accessories, and fashion plates dating from the seventeenth through the nineteenth centuries, that the collection really began to develop. Important examples of nineteenth century fashion soon entered the collection, many donated by local families. Today, the collection remains strong in fashion from the eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries. The twentieth and early twenty-first centuries have been the focus of recent collecting efforts.

The Penny Vinik Curator of Fashion Arts’ primary responsibilities include collaborating with curatorial colleagues to develop the Museum’s collection of 20th and 21st century fashion, keeping in mind the global nature of the Museum, and creating innovative and thought-provoking exhibitions relevant to the MFA’s audience. The Vinik Curator will also manage the Curators Circle: Fashion Council, a support group devoted to the Fashion Arts. This includes organizing programs and travel opportunities as well as stewarding members to inspire a cohesive group that supports the department and its efforts to develop the fashion collection and program.

Essential Functions

  • Propose exhibition ideas and execute approved exhibitions. Direct and oversee related activities, including presentation in galleries, publications, brochures, labels, text, and other interpretive materials.
  • Develop an overall vision for the fashion collection in collaboration with other MFA staff.
  • Manage the Curators Circle.
  • Actively seek out opportunities to engage with Boston’s community and beyond with the goal to deliver on the MFA Strategic Plan’s promise to be a meeting place of world cultures and to welcome and deeply engage a diverse range of audiences.
  • Collaborate with the Development department to cultivate and steward relationships with important collectors and donors and to seek and act upon opportunities that connect new and existing donors with the Museum. As necessary, partake in the process of grant applications.
  • In collaboration with the Department Chair, the Head of Collections, and the Director, discover, research, recommend and present objects for acquisition. Refine the collection through thoughtful de-accessioning.
  • Work with Communications staff in marketing and public relations on endeavors that support exhibition projects or initiatives.
  • Share expertise, and maintain extensive contacts with colleagues, scholars, designers, artists, collectors, dealers, consultants, locally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Work closely with Conservation and Collections Management, Exhibitions Strategy and Gallery Displays, Facilities, Protective Services, contractors and others partaking in art installations, to ensure proper conditions and protocols are applied.
  • Collaborate with departmental and Museum-wide colleagues to research and document the collection in the Museum’s collections database “The Museum System” (TMS). Evaluate and arrange for loans of objects to and from the collection.
  • Identify objects and consult with Provenance Curator, conservation and scientific staff to establish the history and authenticity of art objects.
  • Deliver talks on the permanent collection and special projects or exhibitions.
  • Travel and serve as an art courier and, funding permitted, participate in conferences and seminars, visit other museums, and maintain professional affiliations in appropriate organizations.

Minimum Qualifications, Experience, Qualities

  • Master’s or PhD in related field with a focus on fashion theory, fashion history or other related discipline desirable.
  • A minimum of four to six years of related experience.
  • Proven record of scholarly research and publishing in area(s) of specialty. A portfolio of exhibitions and publications that have advanced scholarship and/or connected visitors to the fashion arts in engaging ways desirable.
  • Possesses national and international perspective but is personally and professionally committed to the city of Boston, its people and the fashion/design/arts community.
  • Superior ability to present and defend ideas and projects that earn the respect of colleagues and Museum’s leadership and builds credibility for the department and institution, regionally, nationally, and internationally.
  • Should have established contacts with a national and international network of colleagues, fashion designers, artists, dealers, and other museum professionals with the desire and ability to cultivate new relationships intended to enhance the collection and programming, especially as related to the Fashion Council.
  • Demonstrated track record of attracting, cultivating, and stewarding donors.
  • Strong planning and project management skills with the ability to manage various projects simultaneously and collaborating with colleagues across the institution to achieve the best outcome.
  • Strong sense of accountability for achieving stated objectives.
  • Must have the ability to partner with the Department Chair, Director and curatorial colleagues in developing the artistic vision and growth of a fashion collection that suitably aligns with the Museum’s encyclopedic collection and overall mission.
  • Committed to supporting and contributing to the success of the Museum’s financial endeavors and imperatives.

Personal Qualities and Attributes

  • Intellectual rigor
  • Inspirational, passionate, curious
  • Must exhibit a generous and collaborative team spirit
  • Superior judgment, discretion, tact and diplomacy

Salary Range


How to Apply

To apply, please submit your application through the Museum's online job board.

The Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is an Equal Opportunity Employer. We are committed to building a culturally diverse and inclusive work environment and strongly encourage and welcome an application pool that reflects our commitment.

Page Type
Staff Position
Full Time

Full-Time, 35 hours per week, Monday–Friday

Contemporary Art