Tobias Ostrander, Miami Art Museum's New Chief Curator, Has Big Plans

After spending the last decade in Mexico, Tobias Ostrander arrives in Miamis as chief curator and deputy director of curatorial affairs at the Miami Art Museum. He's landed at a critical juncture: The museum is moving into new digs on the Bay, scheduled to open in 2013.

Ostrander cut his teeth at the Brooklyn Museum and El Museo del Barrio. He's punching the clock here following a two-year stint as director of El Museo Experimental del Eco, an alternative space in Mexico City.

Before that, Ostrander spent eight years at Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo. We tracked down Ostrander in Mexico before he parachuted into the 305 and asked him what his plans for MAM are, his thoughts on Art Basel, and his interest in producing large-scale public conferences to elevate culture in the region. Check out the viewpoint after the jump.

New Times: What are your impressions of Miami, as well as Art Basel, so far?

Tobias Ostrander: I have been here several times, and I have always been attracted to the energy of the city and its art scene. Both Basel and the city continue to grow in complexity. I think Miami is a very exciting place to be right now.

MAM is in an interesting stage. Can you share what your goals are for the museum moving forward? And is education and research going to be part of it?
It is a very charged moment for MAM as we build this extraordinary building and design the program for the new space. The museum has a history of outstanding education programs serving the city, but the expansion of these offerings for both youth and adults is part of our plans. Research is also a priority; it will be important for the museum to not only take exceptional projects from other prominent institutions, but to generate our own exhibitions and publications of critical and scholarly significance.

What type of art will you be bringing to MAM, and will future programming be more focused on Latin American art?

As we think of Miami as a cultural context, its history, population and geographical location make it a special place to think about Latin American Art, as well as North American art production. I am also particularly interested in fostering further research on the history of Modern and Contemporary Caribbean Art and artists. But I also see the importance of placing the cultural production of these areas in dialogue with other cultural contexts globally, such as Africa, Europe or India.

Having recently directed an alternative space can we look forward to bleeding-edge shows presented at MAM?
For the past two years, I have been running a small museum that is part of the national university in Mexico City. The program I developed there mixed mid-career artists with younger emerging artists. I was also combining local artists with artists working outside of Mexico. I will be interested in exploring similar strategies in Miami. MAM is a more formal museum and must have a historical perspective, so in considering younger artists, it will be important to think carefully about presenting work that we feel has potential longevity.

What's your take on the level of talent and gallery scene here? Have you visited any alternative spaces that have caught your attention?
I have not had the chance to visit studios and alternative spaces in Miami. But it is on the top of my list of things to do once I arrive. I am interested in talking with artists about what they see as the strengths and cultural necessities in the city as it continues to expand.

Basel is obviously the big dog-and-pony show in Miami's art calendar. Do you have plans to develop programming to involve the larger community with MAM during the rest of the season?
I think it is important to develop a program that attracts a strong local and international audience throughout the year. One way of doing this is of course through outstanding exhibitions. I think another way is through scholarly conferences or some combination between exhibition projects and public discussions. I am interested in producing a large-scale public conference annually or bi-annually, which would provide another critical moment for discussion around contemporary art and culture in the region.

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