Anne Pasternak

The director of the Brooklyn Museum has brought the past into conversation with the radical present

Since taking her post as director of the Brooklyn Museum in 2015, Anne Pasternak has aimed to “bring the past into conversation with the radical present.” To that end, the nearly 200-year-old institution has mounted exhibitions like “Climate in Crisis,” which explores climate change’s impact on indigenous people across the Americas.

She’s also seen the museum break with ossified traditions and embrace all forms of art, including music, fashion, and design—from “David Bowie Is” in 2018 to “Studio 54: Night Magic,” opening March 13. “This is an explosive period of creativity, and our museum should be reflective of that reality.”

Also making waves are programs such as a partnership with the Brooklyn district attorney’s office and the Center for Court Innovation that supports criminal justice reform by offering education in lieu of fines and jail time for low-level offenses. “We’re constantly rethinking the traditional model and asking how a museum such as ours can have an impact on our community and larger social issues.” 

“A museum should be a place of having a quiet spiritual encounter with an artwork, absolutely. But why shouldn’t it also be a place where you do yoga or salsa or just party?”

Dustin Pittman, Stroke of Midnight at Studio, 1978–79 Photo: Dustin Pittman. Courtesy of the Artist
A photo by Guy Marineau of Pat Cleveland on the dance floor during Halston’s disco bash at Studio 54, 1977. Photo: Guy Marineau / WWD / Shutterstock

A version of this article first appeared in print in our 2020 Spring Issue under the headline Creative Minds. Subscribe to the magazine.


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