As a curator at the St. Louis Art Museum, Tricia Paik kept tabs on her peers at the Indianapolis Museum of Art and even traveled to Indianapolis in 2012 to check out the Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park — the site west of the IMA known as "100 Acres."
Future installations at 100 Acres are in the hands of Paik, announced Monday as the Indianapolis Museum of Art's new curator of contemporary art.
"I made a pilgrimage specifically to Indianapolis to visit 100 Acres park," Paik told The Indianapolis Star. "I was so impressed by what I saw."
Paik brings to Indianapolis a resume highlighted by work at New York's Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She's exiting the St. Louis museum, where she helped launch that museum's outdoor Sculpture Garden in the role of associate curator of modern and contemporary art.
The Sculpture Garden in St. Louis opened with "Stone Sea," a 2012 commission by Andy Goldsworthy. 100 Acres opened in 2010 and includes work by Los Carpinteros, Alfredo Jaar and Atelier Van Lieshout.
Paik, a 44-year-old native of Santa Monica, Calif., was a research assistant in the Met's modern art department in the late 1990s. She worked at MoMA from 2000 to 2008, where she shepherded a high-profile exhibition of Georges Seurat drawings.
She said her time at MoMA continues to influence her work as a curator. Paik said the esteemed museum represents "just excellence across the board, whatever the projects were. Just really high standards of how you develop an exhibition to catalog production to exhibition design."
With Paik's hiring, IMA director and CEO Charles Venable has filled all curator positions on staff.
Amid an exodus of curators that followed Venable's hiring in August 2012, the contemporary art department lost two leaders. Lisa Freiman, senior curator and chairwoman of the contemporary art department, left in May to become director of the Institute for Contemporary Art at Virginia Commonwealth University. Sarah Urist Green, curator of contemporary art, left in September to launch online video series "The Art Assignment" for PBS.
"I'm confident that (Paik's) proven deep art historical knowledge and her dedication to contemporary artists, academic scholarship and community engagement will build upon the museum's already robust contemporary art program and help move us forward in new and exciting ways," Venable said in a prepared statement.
In St. Louis, she oversaw recent exhibition "Postwar German Art in the Collection" and the 2013 installation of Yoko Ono's "Wish Tree."
"I'm first and foremost a trained art historian," said Paik, a Dartmouth College graduate who earned both master's and doctorate degrees from New York University. "What I endeavor to do with contemporary art is to look toward the future, but also look back to the past. To show our audiences how contemporary art fits in a trajectory of artistic production over the decades and centuries and across cultures."
Earlier this month, the IMA hired Scott Stulen as the museum's first-ever curator of audience experiences and performance. His track record at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis includes the surprise success of the Internet Cat Video Festival, which brought 10,000 people together in a field in 2012 and then 11,000 paying customers at the 2013 Minnesota State Fair.
Paik said she looks forward to working with Stulen. Museums need to develop engaging programming "that doesn't sacrifice quality or rigor or substance," Paik said.
Paik said she plans to join the IMA staff this summer, after she gives attention to a writing project.