TORONTO – Julian Cox has been appointed chief curator of the Art Gallery of Ontario, the organization announced Thursday.
The British art veteran will also become the gallery’s second deputy director, joining Alicia Vandermeer, deputy director and chief advancement officer.
Cox replaces former chief curator Stephanie Smith, who left the gallery in October 2016.
He has 25 years of museum experience and is currently the chief curator and founding curator of photography for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
He’ll start his tenure at the AGO in January 2018.
Cox’s appointment comes after last month’s departure of Andrew Hunter, who had served as the AGO’s Canadian art curator since May 2013.
In a Toronto Star column last week, Hunter said he left his job because he was worried “about an institution wavering in its commitment to make space for new voices.”
Hunter expressed disappointment that art institutions aren’t progressing quickly enough in their attempts to be more inclusive, especially when it comes to Canada’s Indigenous community.
In the piece, he said the AGO is “an institution that remains (like so many others in this country) burdened by, and seemingly committed to, a deeply problematic and divisive history defined by exclusion and erasure.”
In an interview with The Canadian Press last week, AGO director Stephan Jost said he agreed with Hunter that the art world needs to try harder to be accessible to people of colour, who have historically been left out of many of these kinds of institutions.
In announcing Cox’s appointment on Thursday, Jost called it “a pivotal moment in the AGO’s history.”
“We face exciting opportunities as our audiences expand and we continue our evolution into a 21st-century museum,” Jost said in a statement.
“(Cox’s) strong leadership and curatorial sensibilities will help us ignite and sustain passionate and timely conversations through art, both locally and globally.”
The AGO said part of Cox’s goal will be to position “Toronto and Ontario’s rich artistic landscape in the widest context possible to ensure the gallery is inclusive and welcoming, and better reflects the diversity of the communities it serves.”