Curator Ingrid Schaffner exits Chinati amidst museum-wide staffing changes 

Chinati Curator Ingrid Schaffner is stepping down from the role to pursue an opportunity with Hauser & Wirth gallery. ©Carnegie Museum of Art, Pittsburgh. Photo: Bryan Conley.

MARFA — Ingrid Schaffner, a contemporary art curator who has been employed at the Chinati Foundation for the past three years, recently left the organization to pursue employment with Hauser & Wirth, an international commercial gallery. 

Schaffner’s curatorial duties at Chinati will officially come to an end this weekend, with an exhibition opening and artist talk centered around weavings by Porfirio Gutiérrez for Chinati Weekend.

Schaffner, a Northern California native, will be based out of Los Angeles, taking up the title of curatorial senior director. She is part of a new curatorial leadership team being established by Hauser & Wirth, which has 15 locations across the globe. “It’s an opportunity that curtailed my time here and at Chinati,” said Schaffner. 

The work will involve developing exhibitions based on the gallery’s collections, which include the estates of artists Jason Rhoades, Mike Kelley, Philip Guston, Louise Bourgeois and more. Schaffner will also contribute writing and editing to Ursula, Hauser & Wirth’s art journal. 

‘We’re thrilled that Ingrid is joining Hauser & Wirth as curatorial senior director, bringing her experience and expertise as a curator and writer, her noted talent for collaborating closely with artists, and her very special sensibility to the gallery,” said Stacen Berg, partner and executive director at Hauser & Wirth Los Angeles. 

Before Schaffner arrived in Marfa in 2020, the Chinati Foundation had never hired a curator; the role was traditionally held by the director. Whether or not Schaffner will be replaced is still being worked through with the museum’s board, said Caitlin Murray, the museum’s new director as of May. 

“Bolstered by a growing team, we are confident in a number of different possibilities and will share more in the coming months alongside new scholarship, programs, and workshops that center artists,” said Murray.

The organization is going through somewhat of a “stabilization and growth” period, according to Schaffner, having secured Murray, an experienced Judd scholar, as its top administrator after the departure of Jenny Moore last summer. Chinati also recently welcomed its first-ever communications director, Sam Riehl, who previously worked for Cultural Counsel, a New York-based PR firm. 

Murray said Chinati has remained dedicated to written communication via its newsletter, which was originally published in 1995, and has worked with communication professionals in the past, but it was time to onboard a full-time staff person for the increasingly critical role. 

“The pandemic further illuminated the importance of staying connected with our friends, neighbors, members, visitors, and patrons; we hired a director of communications to support these evolving needs,” said Murray. 

Karina Salcido, who worked under Schaffner as a curatorial assistant, recently left Chinati to begin teaching as an adjunct lecturer with The University of Texas El Paso. During her time at Chinati, she helped produce the museum’s annual newsletter and exhibitions — notably Sarah Crowner’s Platform (Blue Green Terracotta for JC) that opened in conjunction with last year’s Chinati Weekend.

During her time at Chinati, Schaffner’s curatorial undertakings strove to foster a throughline between the past and present. 

The Crowner platform is imagined to be in dialogue with an unrealized John Chamberlain project. Videos shot for Chinati Weekend’s virtual celebration in 2020 under Schaffner’s purview — including Continuum, a narrative history of the event by Sterry Butcher, as well as Truckload of Marfa Music, a traveling performance of local musicians situated on Chinati properties — immersed viewers in the local history, art, landscape and people.

“That expansiveness, the depth, and connecting to the past then opening it up for now and the future, that’s what the curatorial can do,” said Schaffner. “And it’s been really special to do it here.” 

It has been both “profound and delightful,” said Schaffner, to personally connect to Judd’s ethos in establishing Chinati: to defend a space for art, and be present to it. She recalls living on the grounds of Fort D.A. Russell, witnessing the sun rise on the 100 untitled works in mill aluminum, causing them to radiate with yellow and pink hues. 

“This idea of defending a space for art, it’s asking us to defend that space for ourselves,” said Schaffner. “It’s such a simple proposition. It’s very challenging and deeply rewarding, but you’re really giving yourself something if you allow for that time and space, which is what is here: time and space for art.”