Jo-Anne Birnie Danzker, director of the Frye Art Museum from 2009-2016, has just been named CEO and Director of Australia’s Biennale of Sydney. It’s a homecoming of sorts for the Australian-born curator, who has also served as the director of the Museum Villa Stuck in Munich and the Vancouver Art Gallery.
The Frye flourished under Birnie Danzker’s lead, due to ambitious exhibitions by contemporary local and national artists all-but ignored by Seattle’s other two art museums. In 2015, she gave 2013 Stranger Genius Rodrigo Valenzuela his first solo museum show, and early last year, she turned the museum over to curator Maikoiyo Alley-Barnes for Young Blood: Noah Davis, Kahlil Joseph, The Underground Museum, of which Jen Graves remarked, “I haven’t seen an art show this good in Seattle in a long time.” In Jen’s exit interview with Birnie Danzker, she identifies the director’s willingness to relinquish control to deserving artists and leverage institutions as sites of “collective work” as the secret to her success.
This weekend, Birnie Danzker will be in Seattle receiving an honorary doctorate from Cornish College of the Arts, where she delivered this year’s commencement address.