Today, nearly a month after his sudden resignation as director of the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH), Bill Arning announced that he will become the “curator and artist liaison for special projects” at Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art in Houston, reports PaperCity. The Houston art community learned about Arning’s departure from CAMH via a Facebook post he made on October 26th, just hours before a cocktail party celebrating the museum’s 70th anniversary. (Arning later told ArtNews that he thought the museum’s press release announcing his departure had been distributed by the time he made his personal post.)
In the ArtNews article from October, Arning commented on how his nine years as the museum’s director had been weighing on him, saying: “I was feeling I wasn’t making progress, and I wasn’t getting done what I needed to get done….Not thinking about who I’m going to ask for money today feels really good.”
When he departed the CAMH his plans were uncertain, but according to Papercity, Arning was soon recruited by Nancy Littlejohn to be involved in the reopening of her gallery. Though more recent Houstonians might not be familiar with Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, the gallery operated in the city in the late 1990s and early 2000s.
In the time since Littlejohn has decided to reopen her space, she has assembled a relatively large roster of colleagues: Emily Griffith, the former manager of Lynn Goode Vintage, will serve as the space’s director; Katharine Barthelme of Barthelme Art Advising will work with the gallery’s clients interested in modern and contemporary art; and Cali A. Pettigrew of Art Portfolio, Inc. will “offer appraisals and collection management services to NLFA clients.” While Barthelme and Pettigrew are not employees of the gallery, they will contract their services to Littlejohn and her clients.
As for Arning, this marks his first stint as a significant player in a commercial gallery. Although he held entry-level positions at galleries early in his career, the majority of his time has been spent at museums and non-profits: before the CAMH, he worked as a curator at MIT’s List Visual Art Center in Cambridge, and as the director and chief curator of White Columns in New York City. Of the possibilities that the private sector offers, Arning told PaperCity:
“I loved working in museums since my twenties but there are a whole lot of considerations and multiple communities nonprofit institutions must serve. With Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art, we only have to make beautiful exhibitions in a gorgeous space that will make the most discerning, informed, and adventurous art lovers flip out.”
Nancy Littlejohn Fine Art will open its 5,000-square-foot, River Oaks-adjacent location at 3465 B West Alabama on January 19, 2019 with a show of works by Houston artist Paul Kremer. Future exhibitions will feature other Texas-based artists on the gallery’s roster, including McKay Otto, recent Guggenheim Fellow Margo Sawyer, Cruz Ortiz, and Sara Carter. The gallery also plans to show historic works by Color Field artists.
Arning will assume his new position at the gallery in January of 2019.