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A new executive director for the San Diego Museum of Art

May 28, 2010 |  1:02 pm

Sdmuseum Roxana Velásquez Martínez del Campo has been named executive director of the San Diego Museum of Art, the museum's board of trustees announced Friday.

Velásquez, who will assume her new duties in the fall, is the director of the Museo del Palacio de Bellas Artes in Mexico City and previously served as director for two of the city's other national museums, the Museo Nacional de San Carlos and the Museo Nacional de Arte (MUNAL).

She succeeds Derrick R. Cartwright, who left to become executive director of the Seattle Art Museum last fall.

Velásquez, 43, will be the first female executive director in the San Diego museum's 84-year history.

She was born in Chicago and raised in Mexico and joined the San Carlos in 1990, serving as chief curator of the European art collection before being appointed museum director in 1997.

Seven years later, she became director of the MUNAL, the largest national museum devoted to Mexican art, and joined the Palacio in 2007. During her tenure at the national museums, Velásquez organized a number of international exhibitions including shows on Rubens, Goya and the Frida Kahlo centennial.

In a phone conversation with Culture Monster, Velásquez -- who was in San Diego for the announcement -- expressed her interest in "reaching out, networking, co-producing with different countries and creating dialogues in several senses" when it comes to exhibitions, publications and scholarship.

Given San Diego's proximity to the border, will that "reaching out" extend to Mexico?

"The border is very close," she said, "but something great with art it is that it avoids borders. [My background] will be an asset to the museum, and those relationships will help, but it goes beyond that. I think the museum is an internationally known place and needs to be known even better. I'm interested in moving further not only in Mexico but with the rest of my colleagues in the United States and beyond."

One problem for museums everywhere has been the rocky economy. The San Diego Museum of Art has had to make several cutbacks, including a round of layoffs in February 2009.

"The financial situation is stable," Velásquez said. "The board has been very careful and taken steps to keep things in control."

In terms of other concerns or goals -- for instance, ways to increase the annual attendance of 350,000 -- Velásquez says she has "a lot of ideas, and I will definitely have a lot to say."

But, she adds, "all of that will have to wait until I come back in the fall."

-- Karen Wada

Photo: Roxana Velásquez Martínez del Campo. Credit: The San Diego Museum of Art