Arts & Culture

Michael Auping retires as curator at Modern Art Museum

Curator Michael Auping talks about the exhibit “Urban Theater: New York Art in the 1980s” at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in 2014.
Curator Michael Auping talks about the exhibit “Urban Theater: New York Art in the 1980s” at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth in 2014. Star-Telegram archives

Michael Auping, the chief curator at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth who organized significant exhibitions, coordinated major acquisitions and helped select the architect for the current building, is retiring from the museum. The announcement was made Thursday by director Marla Price.

Senior Curator Andrea Karnes will take over management and administration of the Modern’s curatorial department.

Auping, 67, who was unavailable for comment Friday, grew up in Los Angeles and came to the Modern in 1993 from a curatorial post at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery in Buffalo, N.Y.

“Michael has brought to Fort Worth things I don’t think Fort Worth ever dreamed of when we were in the old building [now the Fort Worth Community Arts Center],” Karnes said in a phone interview. “He was hired by Marla Price to be on the team to select the architect for the building and to be part of the process. That’s what attracted Michael to Fort Worth in the first place.”

That team selected Japanese architect Tadao Ando to design the concrete-and-glass building that opened in the Cultural District in 2002. It sits in the east-most section of a strip of acreage that also features the Kimbell Art Museum and the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

“Michael was concerned with the spaces not being too large, even though it was contemporary art and can be of grand scale,” Karnes says “He didn’t want a room to overwhelm a piece. He also didn’t want a giant piece of sculpture as a building. He wanted a building that pays reverence to the art within.”

During his tenure as chief curator, Auping organized notable exhibitions, including “Georg Baselitz: Portraits of Elke”; the Philip Guston retrospective that traveled to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and Royal Academy, London; “Declaring Space: Mark Rothko, Barnett Newman, Lucio Fontana, Yves Klein”; “Lucian Freud: Portraits,” co-organized with the National Portrait Gallery, London; and recently, “Frank Stella: A Retrospective,” co-organized with the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Richard Serra’s popular “Vortex” (2002) sculpture outside the museum was given to the museum in Auping’s honor. Auping helped coordinate the acquisition of works by Anselm Kiefer, Agnes Martin, Georg Baselitz, Gerhard Richter, Cindy Sherman, Carl Andre, Bruce Nauman, Richard Long, Vija Celmins, Robert Motherwell and Martin Puryear, all part of the permanent collection.

“We are grateful to Michael for his enormous contributions to this organization, the Fort Worth arts community, and the art world over the past 24 years,” Price says in a news release. “His scholarship has elevated the Modern to international status among modern and contemporary art institutions. We thank him for his dedication, and applaud the legacy he leaves.”

Auping is compiling two books to be released in December, one documenting the Modern’s Ando building and its history, and one a career capstone titled “Forty Years: Just Talking About Art,” featuring conversations he has had with significant artists during his career.

Although it was not announced until Thursday, Auping’s last day was June 30.