After eight years leading the University of Rochester’s Memorial Art Gallery, Jonathan Binstock is headed to Washington, D.C.
Binstock has been named Vradenburg director and CEO of the Phillips Collection, housed in Washington’s historic Dupont Circle neighborhood. He begins his new role in March 2023.
At MAG, Binstock served as the Mary W. and Donald R. Clark director. He took the position in 2014. He came to Rochester after a role as senior vice president for modern and contemporary art in the Art Advisory & Finance group of Citi Private Bank.
Binstock succeeded Grant Holcomb, who retired from the position after nearly three decades as MAG director. In 2019, Binstock was appointed for another five-year term. He is credited with expanding MAG’s audience, its permanent collection and special exhibition program. Binstock played a key role in boosting MAG’s public engagement and outreach efforts as well.
“Jonathan’s vision as a leader and a scholar has helped reaffirm the Memorial Art Gallery’s position as a cultural treasure for the university and for the Greater Rochester region,” says UR president Sarah Mangelsdorf. “His legacy will live on in his innovative ideas on how the arts and creativity enrich our lives and our communities.”
Founded by art collector and philanthropist Duncan Phillips in 1921, the Phillips Collection has been collecting modern and contemporary art for a century. It is widely known for its ability to experiment with exhibitions and events, offering patrons new ways to interact with art. The museum’s endowment has grown to nearly $100 million, supporting the creation of key funds, positions, and capital enhancements, museum officials say. Binstock will be tasked with ushering the celebrated museum into its next century.
“We are delighted with the selection of Jonathan, the result of an exhaustive year-long search,” says Phillips board chair John Despres. “He brings deep knowledge of the Phillips and the Washington, D.C., art community. His track record in building a stellar contemporary art collection, with commissions from internationally important figures including Rashid Johnson and Isaac Julien, promises to catapult our own collection growth to new levels of excellence.”
In Rochester, plans for a search for an interim leader and Binstock’s successor will be announced later, UR officials say.
“Leading MAG has been a great honor,” Binstock says. “MAG exemplifies the many ways in which a museum and its tremendously dedicated curators, teachers, and staff can engage with many communities to educate and inspire.”
Smriti Jacob is Rochester Beacon managing editor. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.
Unfortunately Mr. Binstock failed to correct the major moral mistake committed by his predecessor Grant Holcomb and the MAG board in 2010 when they commissioned Tom “The Dog Killer” Otterness to create statuary for the MAG. Even after being informed that, as a 25 year old “artist”, Otterness had once taken a dog from a shelter, shot it, filmed the dog’s death agonies and offered the resulting “Shot Dog Film” to the world as video “art”, and despite being made aware that San Francisco and NYC, upon learning of Otterness’ past barbaric actions had withdrawn similar commissions, Holcomb and the MAG board nevertheless continued their mega-thousand dollar deal with Otterness, refusing to conduct a public hearing on the plan even after the story of his brutish behavior (all in the name of art of course) had surfaced in the local media and protests against the MAG’s relationship with Otterness had begun.
Fast forward to 2018. With Binstock at the MAG’s helm it was discovered that Otterness’ expensive statuary was falling apart. Despite the golden opportunity which the decomposing “art” had presented for Binstock to revisit the issue and publicly discuss whether the work should be replaced or the entire grouping removed, sadly once again no discussion was forthcoming, and this moral blemish on Rochester’s and the MAG’s reputation was quietly given a new lease on life.