SAM Is Losing A Good Curator in Marisa Sánchez
by Jen Graves
on Wed, Sep 19, 2012 at 12:08 PM
Courtesy Seattle Art Museum
She came from Texas, she's going to Canada.
In her five years at Seattle Art Museum, Marisa Sánchez has played second string to two fine curators to whom it is perfectly dignified to play second string: Michael Darling, first, and now Catharina Manchanda, chiefs in the modern and contemporary department. The assistant curator isn't the one who puts together the headlining shows; she fills in the smaller spaces, and her works can go easily unnoticed.
But Sánchez has always managed to make her own impression. She is, above all, sensitive. At group gatherings far from the public eye, I would always wait to hear what she had to say, and it would always be considered but personal. This quality is hard to get across in an institutional museum setting, but you could sometimes feel it strongly—such as in her really excellent selection, treatment, and display of Warhol's screen tests and Polaroids in 2010. Remember that exhibition? It was gorgeous and glowing and fresh, which is saying quite a lot for Warhol. It seemed to grab a part of him that is softer than the usual Warhol.
Now, Sánchez is leaving. She'll be here for the opening of Elles on October 11, and then she's gone, moving north to pursue a PhD in Art History, Visual Art, and Theory at the University of British Columbia. When she gets that, no doubt she'll be in line for the kinds of chief curatorial positions she's been studying in her posts in Houston and Seattle.
It's hard to say what her departure means for SAM, except that it's easy to see that it might not have been easy to be in Sánchez's position, since Darling's departure left her essentially covering the department while a long search was conducted for his successor (Manchanda). The experience, for one thing, led to Sánchez being drawn in to projects sometimes "with very little notice," as the SAM blog admitted about the exhibition Reclaimed in 2011, when Sánchez was awarded the museum's internal award for an outstanding curator. I was hard on her for that show, and while I stand by my experience of the exhibition, I wish I'd seen the award announcement so I'd known she'd been under duress.
In any case, Sánchez is in British Columbia at the moment, but promises to give an interview when she returns later this week. I'll ask her what it was like to be here, why she's going to UBC, what she wants to study in particular, what she learned here, and whatever else I can think of. Contribute your questions for the exit interview in the comments.