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Who’s the Next You? MCA Director Madeleine Grynsztejn on Curator Julie Rodrigues Widholm

The art world luminaries share a passion for curation.

Madeleine Grynsztejn Julie Rodrigues Widholm Photo by Mark Mann

Madeleine Grynsztejn is Pritzker director of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Known for her deep connections in the art world—and an ability to combine curatorial and commercial savvy—the Whitney museum alumna has also curated the Chilean pavilion at the Venice Biennale. ¶ Julie Rodrigues Widholm is director and chief curator of DePaul Art Museum, part of Chicago’s DePaul University. ¶ They met in 2008, when Grynsztejn took over at the MCA, where Rodrigues Widholm was already working, having started as a curatorial intern. It was Grynsztejn who promoted her to full curator.

“Julie’s a military kid, and I am quote-unquote an ‘oil kid.’ When you move around a lot as a child, you grow your appreciation for the truth of different perspectives, the validity of people and cultures that are not your own. You also can’t help but fall into truly absurd situations—because you don’t get ‘the code’ yet—so it makes you very authentic, as you have no choice but to be who you are. That’s something we share.

“We are both grateful and give back. She’s one of many curators I have mentored, and she herself didn’t waste any time turning around and being on the faculty of the School of the Art Institute [of Chicago].

“I love her strength and self-awareness. We share that. And we’re both in a constant-improvement trajectory.

“She has these giant brown eyes that are kind of the physical equivalent to her avid curiosity and optimism. I was also impressed by her initiative: She’s a self-starter and has a very strong work ethic.

“We both pride ourselves on having an instinct for the near-future masterpiece. We share a deep investment in the art of the Americas, specifically south of the US border. Today, it seems that everybody has a commitment to diversity and inclusion. She did a big show about contemporary art from Mexico in 2007 as a very young curator. She has a very sure sense of what she cares about.”

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