High Museum selects new photography curator

AJC exclusive: Getty associate to start April 11

The High Museum of Art will announce today that it has selected Brett Abbott, associate curator in the department of photographs at the J. Paul Getty Museum in Los Angeles, as its new curator of photography, the AJC has learned.

Abbott, who will join the High on April 1, will be responsible for its collection of more than 4,000 prints, holdings that have grown in size and prominence among American museums in recent years.

“I’m excited to be charged with building the collection in ways that will further distinguish it on the national level while harnessing its resources for local arts education and outreach," Abbott said in a statement. "I’m eager to begin working with the museum’s supporters toward developing a vibrant roster of acquisitions and exhibitions that contributes to the field and inspires the community.”

Since 2002, Abbott has helped manage the Getty's significant photography collection -- mounting exhibitions, conducting research and building the museum's holdings through acquisitions and gifts. He recently received the 2010 Lucie Award for curator/exhibition of the year for his organization of "Engaged Observers: Documentary Photography Since the Sixties." He studied at Stanford University and Williams College and has also worked at the National Gallery of Art, Williams College Museum of Art and the Santa Barbara Museum of Art.

Abbott replaces Julian Cox, who departed the High in August after five years to become the founding curator of photography for the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco and chief curator of the de Young Museum.

Cox added more than 1,000 works to the High’s permanent photography collection during his tenure, including an archive of 325 prints that document the history of the civil rights era -- the largest of its kind in any art museum in the United States -- a cache of more than 100 photographs by Eugéne Atget, and important holdings by contemporary photographers.

He also organized “Signs of Life: Photographs by Peter Sekaer,” the first comprehensive assessment of work by the Danish-born American photographer who was a lesser-known comrade of Walker Evans, continuing on view at the High through Jan. 9.