What that would mean for the Hirshhorn, he hopes, is a expanded role in the global dialogue on contemporary art. "It can be done through convening conferences, for example. The Hirshhorn should commission new research on contemporary art and publish the 'Hirshhorn Papers,' " Koshalek said. He would also like the museum's curatorial staff to work and exchange with curators from across the country to "bring together the thought leaders," and develop new research and exhibitions.
Koshalek, 67, begins his new job in April.
For the past 10 years, Koshalek has been president of the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, Calif. Last year, Koshalek was released from the final year of his contract by the school's board of trustees after protests by student, faculty and alumni over tuition increases and Koshalek's plan to have a Frank Gehry-designed, $50 million library and research center.
During his almost 20 years at the Los Angeles museum, popularly known as MOCA, Koshalek oversaw tremendous growth. In 1980 the museum had no collection, a staff of three and $50,000 in the bank. By the time Koshalek left in 1999, the museum had accumulated 4,000 works and was operated by 75 people. The holdings were built, he explained, by acquiring whole collections. By 1999, the museum had an endowment of nearly $50 million.
The expansion drew worldwide attention. In 1983, Gehry renovated a police vehicle warehouse into the museum's first home, now called the Geffen Contemporary. Three years later, Arata Isozaki designed the museum's permanent home.
"Richard Koshalek has vast experience in both the education and museum worlds," Smithsonian Secretary G. Wayne Clough said in a statement yesterday. "His creativity brought modern and contemporary art to bear on issues of the day and will help the museum and the Institution reach broad audiences in technologically and aesthetically exciting ways."