Parrish Art Museum’s New Directions

An impassioned scholar takes charge of the Parrish Art Museum.
From the exhibition Another Justice: US Is Them: Muna Malik, “Blessing of the Boats,” 2020. Installation view, Parrish Art Museum. Photography by Tom Kochie

by Julia Szabo

In June, the Parrish Art Museum appointed scholar-curator Mónica Ramírez-Montagut as its new director, luring her from her post at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum at Michigan State University in Lansing, Michigan, 768 miles away. Ramírez-Montagut says she’s looking forward to settling in for a lengthy tenure in Water Mill. And Water Mill is delighted to have her.

“There’s such a vibrancy around town,” Ramírez-Montagut says. “What I like is that each part of the East End has its own personality, and they’re all so close by that you can go here to buy a baguette, and there to get ice cream. I love working in a galaxy system, a culture constellation—it reminds me of when I lived in Barcelona.”

Leilah Babirye, Mónica Ramírez-Montagut.

This November, as the Parrish gets ready to mark its 125th anniversary, look forward to some exciting happenings, among them an artistic study of Frida Kahlo’s medical history. “I’m good friends with Kahlo’s grand-niece, and she is making available some of the family archives—photos and letters, as well as clinical files from the hospital in Mexico City where she was treated,” says Ramírez-Montagut, “so we will be able to see firsthand all her chronic health issues, and better understand why she had to paint them.”

Celebratory alfresco dining at the Parrish Art Museum.

The scholar hopes visitors will share in her delight at the Parrish’s architecture—the sleek barnlike structure realized by Swiss architects Herzog & de Meuron. “The Parrish is a special place,” Ramírez-Montagut says. “Here, as you look at art, you’re part of an architectural masterpiece that is transcendent. It’s a very rich, multilayered, meaningful experience. Few places in the world offer all those layers of meaning.” 279 Montauk Hwy., Water Mill;