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El Museo Del Barrio Appoints New Leader

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El Museo del Barrio announced on Tuesday that Margarita Aguilar would be the East Harlem museum's next director. Her first day on the job will be September 12.

"To me this is the job of a lifetime, this is a dream come true," Aguilar said. "I look forward to serving the institution and all its constituents and to making sure that this is the leading institution in the United States, and, of course, internationally."

Aguilar, who was born in Cuba, grew up in Washington Heights and now lives in Weehawken, New Jersey, takes the place of Julian Zugazagoitia, who left El Museo last September to be the director of the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, MO. Georgina Nichols, the museum's director of finance and administration, has been the interim director since Zugazagoitia left.

Aguilar worked in El Museo's curatorial department from 1998 to 2006 and is currently Vice President and Senior Specialist in Latin American art at Christie's. She specializes in colonial, modern and contemporary art of the Americas, and photography by American, Latin American and Latino artists. She is an alumna of New York University and Hunter College and is getting her Ph.D in Art History at The CUNY Graduate Center.

“Margarita brings a unique combination of proven curatorial excellence and a long connection with El Museo, as well as a broad perspective on the Latin American art world, to her new position as director,” said Tony Bechara, the chair of El Museo’s Board of Trustees.

Aguilar said during her time at El Museo, she hoped to collaborate more with local, national and international partners.

"El Museo has always been about collaboration — collaboration with its different, diverse communities — but also with its neighbors: the Museum of the City of New York, Taller Boricua," she said. "Not only just local New York institutions but national and international institutions."

She said that she also hoped to expand the museum's upcoming multi-venue exhibition, "Caribbean: Crossroads of the World," which will show the visual arts of the Caribbean. El Museo is organizing the Summer 2012 exhibit with the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Queens Museum of Art.

El Museo laid off four staff members in June as part of its efforts to cut over $1 million from its budget. But Aguilar said the museum's finances were not a deterrent to taking the job.

"It's tough economic times not only for El Museo, it's for everybody, for every institution," she said. "We've all faced the same challenges in the past and we will continue to face the challenges. We're not going to divert from anything that we've done in the past, we're going to continue with our excellence. We'll have to work a little harder."

The museum mounted its sixth and largest biennial, "El Museo's Bienal: The (S) Files 2011," in June. The exhibition is on view at the museum through Jan. 8, 2012.