RICHARD P. TOWNSEND, Director of the Museum of Biblical Art in New York City, has held over the past two and a half decades curatorial and directorial appointments at art museums across the country. He has organized or coordinated over thirty exhibitions, published scores of articles, reviews, books and catalogues, and raised tens of millions of dollars in support of his institutions. He received his BFA from Virginia Commonwealth University and an MA at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University. Early in his career, Townsend specialized in European and American art of the 17th-19th centuries and as the Ruth G. Hardman Curator at The Philbrook Museum of Art, Tulsa, organized numerous exhibitions. These include J.M.W. Turner watercolors from London museums (Tate, the Victoria and Albert and Courtauld Institute) with a comparative show of paintings by Turner and 19th-century American artist Thomas Moran in 1998; old master drawings from the Nelson-Atkins Museum, Kansas City; small, in-focus exhibitions on Caravaggio and Bernardo Strozzi; and Italian old master paintings from the Bob Jones University Collection (1994-96). He was a member of the organizing committee for the monographic exhibition on 17th-century Italian painter Tanzio da Varallo held at Palazzo Reale, Milan, in 2000. During this time, he published in international catalogues and journals such as The Burlington Magazine, Apollo, Belvedere: Die Zeitschrift für Bildende Kunst and Master Drawings.
Over the past ten years, Townsend has worked in modern, contemporary and Latin American art, first as Executive Director and CEO of Price Tower Arts Center in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. There he envisioned and repurposed Price Tower Arts Center as a museum of 20th and 21st-century art, architecture and design, as housed in a global architectural landmark and Frank Lloyd Wright’s only skyscraper. He doubled its annual operating budget and its support and increased attendance four-fold. Townsend brought a series of important contemporary artists and designers such as Robert Indiana, Dennis Oppenheim and Karim Rashid to the Arts Center. He organized Prairie Skyscraper: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Price Tower for a national tour to Yale and Washington, DC, accompanied by a major monograph published by Rizzoli. For the Oklahoma state centennial, Townsend curated Out of Oklahoma: Contemporary Artists from Ruscha to Andoe, a touring exhibition that included works by Larry Clark, Joe Goode, Lee Mullican, David Salle, Ed Ruscha and others. Townsend was responsible for capital projects totaling several millions of dollars, including a restaurant and boutique hotel by architect Wendy Evans Joseph within Price Tower, historical restoration, an architecture study center and a proposed museum expansion by Zaha Hadid.
Townsend was appointed Deputy Director for External Affairs at the Miami Art Museum in late 2006 and worked closely with leadership on the development and funding of the Herzog and de Meuron-designed building on Biscayne Bay opening in 2013. While helping achieve record fundraising and membership goals, he instituted an international advisory council and a corporate recognition fundraiser now in its fifth year, as well as helping support major exhibition projects such as the recent nationally touring exhibition Everything: Guillermo Kuitca which opened in Miami in 2009. More recently, Townsend was President and CEO of the Museum of Latin American Art in Greater Los Angeles where he oversaw record setting attendance and fundraising efforts, as well as attracting and commissioning exhibitions critically acclaimed in the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and the Wall Street Journal such as Siqueiros: Landscape Painter and MEX/LA: Mexican Modernism(s) in Los Angeles, 1930-85. Townsend’s tenure at MOLAA was described as “enlivening” by Los Angeles Times critic Christopher Knight.
Townsend has lectured frequently at museums, universities and conferences in the United States and Europe, was formerly adjunct professor of art history at the University of Tulsa and has been an active member of the Association of Art Museum Directors and the American Alliance of Museums.
Recently Townsend served as Project Director for Mark Dion @ Balboa Park 2015, developing a collaborative cultural project with a consortium of Balboa Park, San Diego, cultural and scientific institutions and internationally acclaimed artist Mark Dion to celebrate the centennial of the 1915 Panama-California world’s fair. In April 2012, he founded the cultural commentary website Culture Spectator which provides in-depth reviews and thought-pieces on current exhibitions and performances across the United States and abroad, emphasizing a broad, multi-disciplinary approach.
The opinions expressed on this website are those only of the respective writers and are not held by those institutions with which they may be affiliated.
© Richard P. Townsend 2012 –