Installation view of Martin Creed, “Work No. 221, EVERYTHING IS GOING TO BE ALRIGHT” (2015)
This year marks the Parrish Art Museum's (279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, parrishart.org) quasquicentennial year of existence on the East End. We sat down with Mónica Ramírez-Montagut, director of the Water Mill Art Institution, to hear more about what the enormous anniversary means to her.
Parrish Art Museum Executive Director Mónica Ramírez-Montagut.
HOW HAS THE PARRISH ART MUSEUM CHANGED SINCE YOU FIRST STARTED? Since I began, we have become more intentional about identifying who our audiences are and making sure that we are communicating with many different communities. If we say we are going to target a particular audience or demographic, whatever we identify, we need to measure whether or not it is actually happening. In the art world we sometimes tend to think things are going to be received in one way but see that isn’t necessarily so. We have visitors from all backgrounds so we must anticipate different interpretations, and what each exhibition or program means to each visitor.
Samuel Parrish portrait
HOW DO YOU THINK THE PARRISH HAS EVOLVED OVER THE PAST 125 YEARS? The museum was founded by Samuel Parrish to display 16th century Italian art. After Parrish passed away, some of the permanent installations that he had created came down, and the focus shifted toward contemporary artists. When we moved to the new facility in Water Mill over 10 years ago, it became clearer that our strength was to engage with regional audiences, creating a new narrative and participating in a global discourse. We have a lot to contribute not only to the history of art, but to issues including climate change, social justice and community engagement. With the 125th anniversary after COVID, many of us recognize how important it is to come together as a community, as citizens, as residents of this region. Our focus, then, is to be intentional about building bridges between communities, engaging in social dialogue and addressing the aspirational ideas that created this country and became the basis for why many of us are here now.
Mariko Mori, “Empty Dream” (1995)
WHAT EXHIBITIONS ARE YOU PARTICULARLY EXCITED ABOUT THIS SUMMER? The exhibition that we have planned, not only for the summer but for the entire year, is Artists Choose Parrish. We asked renowned artists who have deep roots on the East End today to participate. We thought we would secure maybe 10 artists, and instead attracted 41, many of international renown. We invited each to show one or more of their own works in dialogue with works from the museum collection that speak to them.
Many artists took this very personally, some with highly emotional responses. Together, all of the participants tell a very beautiful story about the Parrish—not only through the years, but through the art they selected that reveal personal interpretations of the relevance of art today. None of the stories were expected or predetermined, and all articulate lived experiences—and that's very exciting. What has come to light is a more visible artist community.
installation view of Another Justice: US is Them, featuring work by Christine Sun Kim
WHAT DO YOU SEE FOR THE FUTURE OF THE PARRISH? I hope we continue being a beloved institution and that we become a little bit more top of mind for everyone. I still come across tourist brochures recommending what to do, where the Parrish isn't included. I think folks are missing out. We have incredible offerings so my hope is that there is heightened awareness of the museum and that we expand our reach. We serve specific audiences very well and visitors have incredible experiences with art and with creativity. I would like it to continue to be the first museum visit for the young people in the area who can say, ‘The first museum I ever went to was the Parrish’—as well as for seasonal visitors. I want to provide that first museum experience that hopefully elicits curiosity, empathy, and awe in humankind and our power to be creative. Overall, the goal is to have our visitors leave the museum inspired and energized. That’s what I would really like to see.
curator/gallerist Klaus Kertess, former Parrish Art Museum Director Trudy Kramer and collection artist Joe Zucker, ca. mid-1980s.
Photography by: PHOTO: BY THOMAS BARRATT/COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND HAUSER & WIRTH, BY JENNY GORMAN, COURTESY OF THE MUSEUM, PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MUSEUM, PHOTO BY JESSICA DALENE, PHOTO COURTESY OF THE MUSEUM