Meet Monsieur le Directeur de Transition

Late in the summer of 2009, when Olivier Meslay joined the DMA as the Senior Curator of European and American Art, he never imagined that two years later he would be the Interim Director. Yet, that is exactly what he was asked to be when Bonnie Pitman stepped down earlier this year. Honored by the appointment, Olivier gladly accepted this important responsibility.

Admired for his accomplishments as a curator, scholar, and professor, as well as for his humor and kindness, Olivier is the perfect person to lead the DMA during this transitional time, because, as they say in Texas, “this is not his first rodeo.” Before joining the DMA’s curatorial staff, he spent sixteen years at the Musée du Louvre. His credentials include graduating from some of the finest educational institutions in France, including the Institut National du Patrimoine, (the French State School for Curators), the Ecole du Louvre (where he was also a professor from 1997 to 2006), and the Sorbonne. Yet, Olivier is quite familiar with American museums; from 2000 through 2001 he was a fellow at the renowned Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, Massachusetts.

During his career at the Louvre, he held a number of senior positions, including curator of British, American, and Spanish painting. He curated several exhibitions, such as the innovative “Louvre Atlanta” project, a three-year collaboration with the High Museum of Art that presented seven shows drawn from the Louvre’s collections that attracted more than one million visitors. Other exhibitions over the course of his career reflect his expertise in British, Spanish, and American Art. A few of the most notable are William Hogarth, American Artists and the Louvre, and La collection de Sir Edmund Davis. He also played a pivotal role developing databases on the Louvre website that provide public access to the entire catalogue of American and British art in French museums. Beginning in 2006, he served as Chief Curator of Louvre Lens, a satellite of the noted Paris museum under development in northern France.

Olivier remained there until 2009, when he moved to Texas to assume his role as the DMA’s Senior Curator of European and American Art. Since leading that division, he curated José Guadalupe Posada: The Birth of Mexican Modernism, and, reflecting his eagerness to embrace his new home, Texas Sculpture. Olivier also spearheaded a complete reinstallation and reconfiguration of the Museum’s European galleries. Thanks to a recently completed project, of which he is most proud, almost the entire collection of the DMA is now available for viewing on our website. Olivier recognizes that this herculean effort came to fruition through the extraordinary efforts of many of his colleagues. His innovative spirit and dynamic leadership quickly made a difference at the DMA. Those qualities will help him lead us through the months ahead. In his spare time, Olivier, his wife, and their two sons have traveled to cities throughout our state, including Paris (Texas not France), El Paso, Laredo, Amarillo, and Midland. This thoughtful, intelligent Frenchman has not forgotten his heritage, but he has developed a keen interest in his new hometown. He has a deep appreciation for everything in Dallas, from its people, to its food, and, of course, its art museum.

Martha MacLeod is the Curatorial Administrative Assistant in the European and American Art Department at the Dallas Museum of Art.


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