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Kanatani Appointed First Director of UCI Institute and Museum for California Art

IRVINE — Nationally renowned museum educator, scholar and collaborative arts producer Kim Kanatani will join UC Irvine in August as the first museum director of the UCI Institute and Museum for California Art (IMCA).

Kim Kanatani

Established through foundational gifts of art made in 2016 and 2017, UCI IMCA is poised to become a comprehensive center for the study, research and exhibition of the distinctive work made by California’s artists from the early 19th century to the present. 

“UCI has been a leader in the arts since the day our students and faculty first walked onto campus, and with the establishment of UCI IMCA we are positioned for an extraordinary new level of achievement,” said Chancellor Howard Gillman. “Our goal is to make the arts an essential element of being at UCI. We welcome Kim Kanatani with enthusiasm and look forward to great things to come.”

Kanatani comes to the UCI IMCA from the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York, where she has served as deputy director and the Gail Engelberg Director of Education. In this role, she has overseen all education programs at the Guggenheim, including public programs for adults, youth and families.

She has coordinated with the international museums of the Guggenheim Foundation and has been actively involved in the planning and development of the foundation’s future museum in Abu Dhabi. Her work has encompassed numerous cross-cultural and museological exchange projects with other venues worldwide.

At the heart of her professional practice is collaborative program development with artists. Most recently, Kanatani spearheaded Guggenheim Social Practice, an initiative that commissions artists to develop new forms of public engagement that address important social values. The inaugural projects featured work by Marc Bamuthi Joseph, Lenka Clayton and Jon Rubin, and Shaun Leonardo.

She has also co-produced multimedia productions, interpretive installations and exhibitions, and other public offerings with artists, including Matthew Barney, John Baldessari, Cai Guo-Qiang, Paul McCarthy, Catherine Opie, Gabriel Orozco and James Rosenquist.

A native of Southern California, Kanatani was the director of education at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles before joining the Guggenheim in 2001.

“I am absolutely thrilled to have the opportunity to develop a world-class art museum that will showcase and celebrate the most significant collections and exhibitions of California art and give this work the recognition it deserves,” Kanatani said. “Shaping the cultural and interdisciplinary discourse around the ever-changing perspectives of artists who create work in response to the unique culture of California and its global contexts will be key. I envision the museum serving as a state-of-the-art teaching and learning institution, which will offer unparalleled arts and cross-curricular experiences for the campus and the wider community.”

UCI Provost and Executive Vice Chancellor Enrique Lavernia added, “With her inspiring energy, talent for creative collaboration, scholarly rigor and deep commitment to civic engagement, Kim Kanatani is the ideal leader for UCI IMCA. She brings an outstanding national reputation that will help UCI make a positive impact through programs and exhibitions that forge meaningful connections at all levels across campus, with our neighbors and supporters, and with our many visitors from around the country and the world.

“I expect that her leadership and guidance will be invaluable as we move forward with constructing a permanent home for the UCI IMCA on campus.” 

The UCI IMCA is home to two of the most comprehensive and expansive collections of California art. The collections are thanks to foundational gifts of The Buck Collection, including more than 3,000 works of California modern art, and The Irvine Museum Collection, including more than 1,300 California Impressionist paintings.

The university is planning to construct a permanent museum and research institute on the UC Irvine campus — fulfilling the vision of campus architect William Pereira’s original 1962 campus blueprint — which will be a global magnet for the exhibition and study of California art and its social and cultural framework.

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