Cultured Magazine

June/July 2015

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Page 135 of 219

A sk Parrish Art Museum Director Terrie Sultan what her most challenging moment was and she may recall a pivotal lunch in 2008, not long after she took over the top seat at the Hamptons museum. Just as the museum was readying a capital campaign to underwrite a splashy $80 million new building designed by Herzog and de Meuron, the global economy cratered. "I asked Ascan Mergenthaler how we were going to re-envision the project," she recalls, "and he replied with a sketch he drew on the spot on a scrap of paper I handed him." Mergenthaler's ad hoc design became the blueprint for the Parrish's new home, which opened in Water Mill, New York, in late 2012; its budget cut to $25 million. "I have that drawing framed on my bookcase." It's an anecdote that sums up her reputation as a museum director: nimble, gregarious and resourceful. She continues to buttress the Parrish's reputation in the wake of its expansion, through shows like the current exhibition on her longtime ally, "Chuck Close Photographs." On view through July 26, many of the works in the show—like the giant Polaroid composite close-ups of flowers, which she describes as "very, very, very sexy"—have never been seen before. Sultan has also initiated a site-specific program, Platform, tasking major artists with responding to the museum's space and surroundings. This summer, Brooklyn-based Tara Donovan presents three large-scale works made from Slinky toys, while last year Maya Lin created the site-specific Pin River—Sandy made from thousands of straight pins. Alongside her curatorial responsibilities, Sultan also helms the Midsummer Party—which is not only a major fundraiser, but also one of the anchor events of the Hamptons social season each July. Last year, the event drew 1,000 attendees. Born in Asheville, North Carolina, Sultan had studied to be an artist, even interning at museums while an undergrad. Once she finished studying, however, she was seized by a different yearning: travel. "I had never been anywhere, but I wasn't the kind of person to do the world tour, the whole 'If it's Tuesday, it must be Belgium,'" she says. Instead, Sultan joined the Peace Corps, leveraging the smattering of French she had learned from the nuns at high school to snare a post on the tropical island of Western Samoa for two years. "The kids in the Peace Corps these days, they have blogs," she chuckles. "When I was in Polynesia, we didn't even have electricity." Her souvenir from that stint was a work of art, of course—in this case, a traditional local wrist tattoo. "Every once in a while, I run into someone who has a similar tattoo," she admits, "and when I recognize it, we talk." Sultan came back to America, horizons suitably stretched, and was soon in New York City working for the late Marcia Tucker at the New Museum, one of several women in senior roles there. Later, Sultan would focus on staging museum shows for under-appreciated mid-career talents while at the Corcoran in Washington, D.C. She has especially fond memories of working with painter Ida Applebroog, before moving to Houston to run the small non-collecting museum attached to the university. In 2003, she staged a Chuck Close print show there, which next traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York; it was a career-making moment (astonishingly, the show has continued in rotation, most recently at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, Australia). Appointed to run the Parrish in 2008, she remains energized even after the monumental capital and logistical challenges of reinventing the museum. "To me, the completion of the building was the beginning, not the end. I see infinite possibilities." 134 CULTURED This summer, Terrie Sultan, left, presents a solo show by Chuck Close. Above, the artist's Study for Slow Pan–Keith (16mm film), 1970.

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