After a pandemic-induced closure of more than a year and a half, in which the exhibits appeared only online, the UC Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Design and Architecture has reopened its galleries to the public with three shows, a program of events – and a new director.
Gabriel Ritter, an expert in modern and contemporary Japanese art and museum studies, joins the campus from the Minneapolis Institute of Art (Mia). At UCSB, he will lead both the AD&A museum and teach as a new faculty member in the Department of Art History and Architecture (HAA).
“We are delighted to welcome Gabriel Ritter to UC Santa Barbara to lead our museum of art, design and architecture into the future as our new director,” said Chancellor Henry T. Yang. “With his solid background in the best artistic institutions, he has the expertise and vision to develop and diversify our permanent collections and help our campus and the local community discover important works through gallery exhibitions.
“In his role as an additional professor within our Department of Art History and Architecture, Dr Ritter will contribute significantly to our academic programs in Art History and Museum Studies and enrich the education of our students. “
Prior to his five years as Curator and Head of Contemporary Art at Mia, Ritter held curatorial positions at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. He has curated a large number of influential exhibitions, with an emphasis on the work of emerging and under-represented artists from the United States, Europe and Asia. Ritter holds a doctorate from UCLA.
Bringing an academic passion for the critical inquiry into art history and extensive professional experience in art conservation, Ritter will lead the continued evolution of the museum and play a key role in expanding the program. HAA Museum Studies.
“I am truly excited about the promise the AD&A Museum holds as an educational institution that above all serves students and faculty on campus,” said Ritter. “I view the campus community as our primary audience and most important stakeholders, and I am delighted to connect with UCSB students and faculty and see how the AD&A Museum can be a more active partner in their university / college life.
“I was also drawn to the incredible intellectual resources available to a university museum like the AD&A museum. The possibilities for partnering with students, faculty and alumni on future exhibitions and programs seem endless. “
“On behalf of the Division of Humanities and Fine Arts, I am delighted to welcome Gabriel Ritter to our campus as Director of the Museum of Art, Design and Architecture and as Associate Professor in the Department. history of art and architecture, ”said Mary Hancock, Acting Dean of Humanities and Fine Arts.
“Ritter’s academic training in modern Japanese art, his background in curating contemporary art, and his skills in community development and outreach will enable him to lead the AD&A Museum into its sixth decade as a campus institution. innovative and cultural resource for the entire Santa Barbara community, ”she said.
It’s a community that Ritter already knows. A native of Los Angeles, he frequently traveled to Santa Barbara with his growing parents, visited the Santa Barbara Botanical Garden, ate at Joe’s Café, and strolled through the long-beloved Earthling Bookstore. The fond memories and beauty of Santa Barbara were part of what drew Ritter to college. But more importantly, he said, was “its unique location between Los Angeles and San Francisco.”
“While I am still familiarizing myself with the cultural specificities of the central coast, there is something to be said for being close to these great cultural poles, but also having the distance to cultivate the identity of a community with its own. conditions, ”says Ritter.
“In addition, there are particular assets that are unique to UCSB, such as the Museum’s Architecture & Design (ADC) collection and the California Library’s Ethnic and Multicultural Archives. Having these incredible resources at your fingertips is truly special and will provide endless opportunities for future research and potential exhibits. “
Stepping into his new dual role, Ritter called it a ‘dream job’, allowing him to connect with young academics on issues of art, equity, the role of art in society and how the museum sector can and must adapt. This will also allow him, he hopes, to “emphasize the social dimension of art in museum presentations”.
“Our visitors should see themselves – their identities and realities – reflected in the work on display, while also being challenged to sympathize with opposing truths, opinions and ways of being,” said Ritter.
“I am convinced that the ideal environment for these conversations is the university art museum, where students, faculty, staff and community members can engage in a wide range of artistic practices with openness. spirit and critical thinking, “he said.
“In this way, art can provide an important lens for cultivating empathy and understanding of others, while also providing a framework for actively challenging and potentially dismantling the systems of oppression that many face on a daily basis,” Ritter said.
Silvia Perea, curator of ADC and, until the arrival of Ritter, acting director of the museum, said her new colleague would support the efforts of the AD&A museum to “become an even more inclusive think tank on social agency and an even more powerful incubator of related actions. . “
“Gabriel Ritter has worked in some of the biggest and greatest museums in the United States, which operate with extensive networks, ambitious programs and powerful fundraising means,” said Perea.
“Based on his rich experience in these museums, he will develop the reputation of the AD&A Museum on campus, in our community and beyond,” she said. “His management and curatorial experience at these global institutions will benefit the continued expansion and care of our collections. while improving the museum’s digital reach and service.
“In addition, his expertise in modern and contemporary East Asian art will foster the museum’s long-standing interest in expanding our collections from that origin and attracting more members of the Asian community to our galleries. ”
As a new Associate Professor of Art and Architectural History, Ritter will also use his professional experience to “develop museum studies courses that encompass non-Western exhibition historiographies and explore comparative models. of conservation practice in a broad global context, ”he mentioned.
A course he has already scheduled for the spring term will focus on topical issues facing the museum industry, such as fair representation.
“The Department of Art History and Architecture at UCSB is filled with amazing academics and truly cultivates a collaborative and interdisciplinary approach,” he said. “The emphasis on global perspectives and intercultural exchange is very similar to how I have approached my own research and conservation projects in the past, so I think I will be really at home.
“The prospect of working across departments with colleagues from other fields is also incredibly exciting. “
He has a perfect learning lab in the museum: Ritter said he would use the AD&A museum galleries “as an expanded classroom and the museum’s permanent collection as educational tools to educate and inspire the next generation of historians of art and museum curators “.
Ritter’s arrival is therefore a win-win – for the museum he now runs and for the university department he has joined.
“Gabriel Ritter’s presence in the department allows us to further extend our interdisciplinary focus to transpacific projects promoted by the Departments of East Asian Languages and Cultural Studies, Art, Film and Media Studies. and English, among others, ”said Laurie Monahan, department chair of the AHA.
“We look forward to his contribution and participation in our museum studies program, which we plan to develop more widely at the graduate and undergraduate level in the years to come, and we welcome the opportunity to work with the AD&A museum, ”Monahan said.