Curator Maggie Adler Departs the Amon Carter Museum of American Art

by Jessica Fuentes June 14, 2024

Margaret (Maggie) Adler, Curator of Paintings, Sculpture, and Works on Paper at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art (the Carter) in Fort Worth, will step down from her position in July. Ms. Adler’s departure marks the fourth curator to leave the museum within the past year, including Kristen Gaylord, Spencer Wigmore, and John Rohrbach

A photograph of curator Maggie Adler speaking to a group about a painting in the Amon Carter Museum's permanent collection.

Maggie Adler speaking about a painting in the Amon Carter’s collection. Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Ms. Adler joined the Carter in September 2013 as Assistant Curator, was promoted to Associate Curator in 2016, and to her current position in 2017. Previously she was the Barra Foundation Fellow at the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) and held development positions at the Addison Gallery of American Art at Phillips Academy in Andover, MA, and Williams College in Williamstown, MA. During her time at PMA, she was mentored by curator Kathleen Foster, who saw Ms. Adler’s nontraditional path (her coming from museum development) as an asset to the museum. Through her work at that institution, she was also introduced to Margaret C. Conrads, who would later become the Deputy Director of Art & Research at the Carter and Ms. Adler’s first boss at that museum.

Andrew Walker, Executive Director at the Carter, told Glasstire, “Margaret C. Conrads oversaw the curatorial department at that time, and was looking for somebody who could grow up at the Carter but also had a lot of ambition. I think what impressed me at that time was that Maggie wasn’t confined in a narrow sense to what her innovative spirit was directed towards.”

An installation image of the exhibition "In Our Own Words: Native Impressions" at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

“In Our Own Words: Native Impressions.” Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Throughout her tenure at the Carter, Ms. Adler’s out-of-the-box thinking materialized through exhibitions, acquisitions, and broader shifts in institutional practices. Significant exhibitions and curatorial projects organized by Ms. Adler include Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation, The Perilous Texas Adventures of Mark Dion, Puente Nuevo by Justin Favela, In Our Own Words: Native Impressions, and the large-scale lobby installation Plexus No. 34 by Gabriel Dawe. Additionally, in 2019 when the Carter reopened after a period of closure, Ms. Adler played a major role in the museum’s rebranding and the reinstallation of its permanent collection galleries under the visionary leadership of then-Director of Collections and Exhibitions Brett Abbott. The reinstallation focused on making connections between the historical collection and contemporary art by installing the works together throughout the museum’s galleries. 

A photograph of curator Maggie Adler speaking with a group of people on a tour of a gallery under renovation.

Maggie Adler speaking with stakeholders during a tour of the reinstallation of the Amon Carter Museum’s permanent collection. Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Andrew Eschelbacher, Director of Collections and Exhibitions, spoke with Glasstire about Ms. Adler’s contribution to the museum. He remarked, “Her curatorial vision is one that’s ambitious. It’s boundary-pushing. It’s grounded in history, but focused on relevancy and the potential of art to speak to the contemporary moment in profound, engaging, and accessible ways.”

Ms. Adler’s interest in both historical and contemporary art has been present throughout her career, though she told Glasstire she always imagined the two had to exist separately. While at the PMA, she worked on a Winslow Homer exhibition and in her spare time volunteered to assist contemporary artists with installations. She was interested in working at the Carter because of its renowned American art collection, and she quickly began to find ways to integrate contemporary artists. Navigating this was tricky because the Carter and nearby museums — the Kimbell Art Museum and the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth — had longstanding understandings about the boundaries of their institutional collections. Regarding contemporary works, the Carter typically only collected contemporary photography in order to not tread on the Modern’s collection. In 2015, one of Ms. Adler’s first major acquisitions, Runaways by Glenn Ligon, required that she, in collaboration with others on the curatorial team, push for a reconsideration of this long-held practice, expanding the museum’s collecting policy to contemporary works on paper. 

An installation image of prints by Glenn Ligon.

Glenn Ligon, “Runaways” on view in “Identity” at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art, 2016. Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

An installation image of a large-scale site-specific installation by Gabriel Dawe at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Gabriel Dawe, “Plexus no. 34.” Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Though the museum had begun to focus on creating temporary exhibitions with living painters and sculptors connected to Texas, acquiring their works for the permanent collection was not the practice. Originally, Gabriel Dawe’s Plexus no. 34, a site-specific piece that was installed in 2016, was intended to be temporary. However, it became an audience favorite and an iconic part of the Carter’s atrium. In 2018, Mr. Abbott championed an expanded collections policy with Ms. Adler and others that allowed for the acquisition of select works by living artists, including the installation by Mr. Dawe and works from later projects such as Ms. Adler’s show with Mark Dion.

A photograph of artist Gabriel Dawe and curator Maggie Adler.

Gabriel Dawe and Maggie Adler. Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Reflecting on Ms. Adler’s upcoming departure, Mr. Dawe told Glasstire, “​Maggie is a force of nature like no other. Her immense enthusiasm and passion made working with her to bring Plexus no. 34 to life an unforgettable experience that sparked a treasured friendship. I am eager and excited to see what new ideas will emerge from her brilliant mind in this new chapter of her curatorial career.”

A photograph of curator Maggie Adler and artist Mark Dion.

Maggie Adler and Mark Dion. Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

In 2020, just a month before the COVID-19 pandemic, the Carter opened The Perilous Texas Adventures of Mark Dion, which was a project years in the making. Mr. Dion traveled across the state, retracing the footsteps of 19th-century explorers. Throughout his trips he collected items that would ultimately form his installation. 

Mr. Dion spoke with Glasstire about his experience working with Ms. Adler. He explained, “[It] was an extraordinarily positive experience. She is an entirely artist-focused curator and scholar. While so many curators have succumbed to bland, market-driven easy painting, Maggie has continued to champion challenging work around considering some of society’s most vital issues. The work Maggie supported in Fort Worth has been formally, radically, and conceptually complex. She definitely moved the contemporary art discourse needle significantly forward.”

A photograph of artist Justin Favela and curator Maggie Adler leading a tour.

Justin Favela and Maggie Adler leading a tour at the Amon Carter Museum of American Art. Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Reflecting on her work at the Carter, Ms. Adler told Glasstire that her focus has been on relationship building. “These relationships carry forward, long beyond the exhibition. I still care about Mark Dion, I still am one of the first people Justin Favela calls when he needs guidance, I am family with Gabriel… it’s bigger than the shows.”

A photograph of artist Sandy Rodriguez and curator Maggie Adler discussing paint pigments.

Sandy Rodriguez and Maggie Adler. Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

A photograph of curator Maggie Adler leading a tour through an exhibition.

Maggie Adler leading a tour through “Emancipation: The Unfinished Project of Liberation.” Courtesy of Amon Carter Museum of American Art.

Regarding exhibitions, she stated that Emancipation has been the most important project she has undertaken, on an institutional level, both for the local community and as a personal turning point. She said, “It was the project where I felt like all that was most needed was for me to act as a convener and a catalyst and then to put myself aside. The artists, the other curators, or the essayists were the voices that made the show. The fact that people, over time, had faith in my doing this show, to me, that means the world. I could not have imagined what would happen after it left the Carter… this show keeps changing and evolving to meet its communities wherever it goes.”

Following her departure from the Carter, Ms. Adler plans to focus for the immediate future on recharging, pursuing independent curatorial projects, and writing. She currently has plans in development with museums and organizations such as the New Mexico State University Museum and with Ballroom Marfa. She explained, “Almost 11 years at one institution is a long tenure for any one organization and I think I’ve reached the limits of my personal growth and what is possible for me at the Carter. When I distill down to the essence of what I think my superpower is, it’s in forging connections and initiating conversations, and I think that is possible out of the context of an institutional mandate.”

When asked about what the recent departures of four of its six curators means for the Carter, Mr. Eschelbacher told Glasstire, “The people who have left have really helped to shape the Carter and bring it to this current moment. They are all pursuing wonderful opportunities that advance their careers, and personally, I’m grateful for the work that they’ve done to bring us to this stage and the table that they’ve set for a new generation of curators to come in, and I’m really excited about what that looks like.”

In December 2023, Michaela Haffner joined the Carter as Assistant Curator of Paintings, Sculpture, and Works on Paper. Earlier this year, María Beatriz H. Carrión stepped into the role of Assistant Curator of Photographs. 

Ms. Adler’s last day at the Carter will be Monday, July 17, following the installation of the site-specific commission Jean Shin: The Museum Body.


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D. Jack Davis June 15, 2024 - 07:17


I can’t imagine the Carter without you. Good luck in your future endeavors.

carolyn June 16, 2024 - 10:52

Thank you to Maggie for bringing so much exciting new work to the Amon Carter.


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