Alan Shestack of Washtington, D.C., who served as director of Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts from 1987 to 1993, died at his home on April 14, The Boston Globe reported on April 24. “He had been suffering from multiple health problems in recent years and there was no suggestion his death was coronavirus-related, said his longtime friend Mervin Richard, personal representative of Mr. Shestack‘s estate and chief of conservation at the National Gallery,” according to the newspaper.
“His tenure at the MFA was dedicated to expanding the scope and interpretation of works of art and their elegant display,” current MFA Director Matthew Teitelbaum said on the museum’s website. “He committed to the Museum’s collection of African art with true purpose, and encouraged a deepened belief in the role that modernist and contemporary art could play within the Museum’s collection displays. Notably the great (and incomparable) Lane Collection came to the Museum while he was our director.”
Born in 1938 in New York City, Shestack was a scholar of German and Netherlandish art of the Reformation era. Before arriving at the MFA, the Harvard alum had been director of the Minneapolis Institute of Arts, from 1985 to 1987; an adjunct professor of the history of art at Yale University and director of the Yale University Art Gallery from 1971 to 1985; a curator of prints and drawings at Yale University Art Gallery from 1968 to 1971; and curator of graphic art at the National Gallery of Art in Washington and at the Lessing Rosenwald Collection in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania, from 1965 to 1968.
After leading Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, Shestack served as deputy director and chief curator of the National Gallery of Art in D.C. from 1993 until his retirement in 2008. (Listen to a 2004 talk by Shestack about the National Gallery of Art’s European and American paintings collection.)
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