Dr. Steven Nash
Executive Director, Palm Springs Art Museum
When the Palm Springs Art Museum’s longtime executive director, Janice Lyle, retired two years ago, the institution was in the middle of repositioning its identity from a beloved natural science institution to an art museum. The board of directors brilliantly plucked Dr. Steven Nash from the prestigious Nasher Sculpture Center and brought him to Palm Springs to help change the language of contemporary art offerings in the desert.
Up first on the order of business were two things: introducing a Bill Viola video work to the community and completely changing the visitor experience upon entering the museum. Wooden floors replaced tired carpet; roofs were raised in exhibition galleries; the downstairs Annenberg Theater turned bright orange. With all this work underway, it was time to dive into the vaults where jewels in the permanent collection lay in wait to be unearthed and revived.
Dr. Nash’s love of sculpture inspired him to dig into the task of showing the esteemed Weiner Collection in an entirely new way to museum supporters, many of whom had seen various pieces of the collection (like the massive Henry Moores) but never as a cohesive whole. “We will be constantly re-examining and rotating our permanent collection to give new perspectives on it,” explains Dr. Nash. “There are quite a number of important and interesting works that have not been seen in a long while that deserve exposure. The galleries will never remain stagnant.” This past summer saw further gallery renovations, including the uncovering and opening of windows and walls that hadn’t seen the light of day in years. “People are going to feel much more excited about visiting these galleries,” says Dr. Nash. “I think they will be magnetically pulled into the spaces.”
This is certainly true for the current politically charged and historically poignant exhibitions Borderlandia: The Work of Enrique Chagoya and Against All Odds: Keith Haring in the Rubell Family Collection. “We jumped at the opportunity that arose to collaborate with the great Rubell Family Collection in Miami,” says Dr. Nash. “It is one of the largest and finest private collections of contemporary art in the world, and we mutually agreed that an exhibition of their astonishing holdings of the work of Keith Haring would be a deeply meaningful way to begin what we think will be a series of ongoing collaborations.”
This working relationship with the Rubell Collection will be unique and will position the museum in an upper echelon of important work with exhibitions, critical discourse, and education programs. “With this particular show we will take a closer, reassessing look at an artist who is well known for a certain aspect of his work but is not fully appreciated for the profoundly political, social, religious, and personal commentary found in a great many of his paintings and drawings. So we think the show will contribute to an evolving understanding of Haring and his art.”
With Dr. Nash at the helm, the E. Stewart Williams-designed sleeping giant at the base of Mount San Jacinto has awakened with new fervor. “I love art of all eras and cultures,” says Dr. Nash. “It is one of the things that for me makes life most worth living.” Next up: Dr. Nash is currently preparing for a Wayne Thiebaud show later in the year, and he is working on an essay on Richard Diebenkorn for a book by U.C. Press.