The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts is preparing to say farewell to two key members of staff later this year. Dr. Sylvia L. Yount, chief curator and the Louise B. and J. Harwood Cochrane, Curator of American Art, and Robin Nicholson, the head of exhibitions and deputy director for art and education, are each leaving for new locations in September.
During her 7-year tenure at the VMFA, Yount has presented exhibitions on the work of Anglo-American printmaker Clare Leighton and African American modernist Jacob Lawrence, among many others. She will leave the VMFA to become the Lawrence A. Fleischman Curator in charge of The American Wing of New York’s The Metropolitan Museum of Art. She says, “While I wasn’t looking to leave, the Met ultimately made me an offer I could not refuse — a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be a part of charting the future of the Wing, the leading collection of fine and decorative American art in the world.”
At the Met, Yount will be the first fine art specialist in 20 years to run the wing and the first woman to ever hold the position. She will oversee 35 curatorial staff, 22 more staff members than she oversaw at the VMFA. She says, “I will oversee acquisitions, research, publications, as well as the development of American exhibitions. I will interact with a range of important departments — like Education, Exhibitions, and Development — across the museum, and be responsible for very active patron/collector groups.”
Nicholson has worked at the VMFA since 2006. He has been involved as the project director of the VMFA’s recent exhibitions including Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée Picasso, Paris, Chihuly at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts and, most recently, Hollywood Costume.
Nicholson will be leaving the museum to become the director of the Frick Art and Historical Center in Pittsburgh. “After 8½ years as VMFA’s deputy director, it was a natural progression to become the director of a museum,” Nicholson says. “I was approached about the Frick position and found a museum — and a city — with great opportunity.” Nicholson will direct all internal and external operations of the Frick, including special exhibitions.
Reflecting on her time at the VMFA, Yount says, “I have truly enjoyed serving as an advocate for my talented colleagues in the curatorial division. It will be hard to leave them.”
Nicholson calls his time at the VMFA an incredible experience; he has directed some of the most important and popular exhibitions in the museum’s history. He concludes, “It is a reflection of VMFA’s growing reputation and stature that our staff are in demand to fill top positions in the art world.”