MIDDLEBURY, Vt. — The Art Institute of Chicago recently announced that James Rondeau, a member of the Middlebury class of 1991, has been appointed president and Eloise W. Martin Director for the Institute. Rondeau, who led two of the Art Institute’s curatorial departments over his 18-year tenure, replaces Douglas Druick, who will retire after 30 years of service.
“It is an incredible honor and privilege to be chosen as the Art Institute’s next director,” said Rondeau in a statement from the Institute. “I’ve made this extraordinary institution my professional home for nearly two decades because I believe it is one of the greatest museums in the world.”
Rondeau, who majored in American Civilization, is at least the fourth Middlebury graduate to direct a major American art institution. Timothy Rub ’74 is the George D. Widener Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and Lisa Phillips ’75 is the Toby Devan Lewis Director of the New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York. A fourth graduate, Vladimir von Tsurikov, earned his M.A. from Middlebury’s Kathryn Wasserman Davis School of Russian, and is now the director of the Museum of Russian Art in Minneapolis.
“It is quite impressive for Middlebury College to have three of its graduates simultaneously directing major American museums,” said Richard Saunders, director of the Middlebury College Museum of Art. “It speaks volumes about the value of the experience students receive at a liberal arts college and, in particular, the excellence of a Middlebury education.”
Rondeau joined the Art Institute of Chicago in 1998 as an associate curator of contemporary art and rose to become department chair in 2004. From 2004-2014 he defined the museum’s internationally respected contemporary art program, taking on the additional interim role of curator and chair of photography from 2008-2009. Most recently, Rondeau stewarded the merging of the museum’s departments of contemporary and modern art under his leadership. Over the course of his tenure, he secured numerous major gifts, most notably in 2015 when he ushered in the largest gift of art in the museum’s history—the Edlis/Neeson Collection.
“James has proven himself one of the most innovative and accomplished curators and museum leaders anywhere,” said Robert M. Levy, chair of the Art Institute’s board of trustees in the statement. “He understands with great insight what makes the Art Institute so powerfully exceptional—the parallel strengths of our founding encyclopedic vision and our remarkable dedication to art of the moment.”
Rondeau has published and lectured extensively, with 13 exhibition catalogues to his credit, along with numerous essays, articles, and talks. He has been awarded many professional honors and has served on various advisory councils and boards, including the Poetry Foundation in Chicago, and as a panelist for the National Endowment for the Arts and the Institute for Museum and Library Services; the commissioner and co-curator of the U.S. Pavilion at the 49th Venice Biennale featuring artist Robert Gober; and as a visiting faculty member at the University of Illinois, Chicago. Rondeau earned a B.A. from Middlebury in 1991 and an M.A. in the History of Art from Williams College in 1994.
Photo courtesy Art Institute of Chicago.