Matthew Robb will join the Fowler Museum at UCLA as chief curator on June 13. Previously, Robb served as curator of the arts of the Americas at the de Young, one of the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco.
“I am thrilled that someone of Matthew’s strong scholarly background and excellent museum and curatorial experience will be joining us,” said Marla Berns, the Shirley and Ralph Shapiro Director of the Fowler Museum. “Given the Fowler’s strong collections of ancient and historical arts from Mesoamerica as well as our stellar holdings of material from the Andean world, Matthew will bring fresh insights and expertise to future research and exhibition projects.”
At the de Young, Robb engaged in ongoing research into the permanent collection, particularly its murals from the ancient Mexican city of Teotihuacan. In 2013, he played a crucial role in bringing the Weisel Family Collection of Native American Art to the de Young. A specialist in the art and archaeology of ancient Mesoamerica, he has also compiled a database of over 500 examples of stone masks associated with Teotihuacan that serves as a catalogue raisonné of these enigmatic objects. This research was a focus of Robb’s time as a Scholar at the Getty Research Institute in the spring of 2015.
Prior to joining the staff of the de Young, Robb was associate curator in charge of the department of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas at the Saint Louis Art Museum, where he started as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow in 2007. While there, he curated the first complete re-installation of the museum's ancient American collections in almost 30 years. He also coordinated and supervised the reinstallation of the museum's African, Oceanic and Native American collections, working with noted specialists in these areas. He was also instrumental in securing the gift of the Donald Danforth Jr. Collection of plains Native American art to the museum.
“I have long admired the Fowler's exhibitions and programs, so I am very excited to join the team and to develop projects that will engage a broad and diverse set of objects, issues, and audiences,” said Robb about his new appointment. “I look forward to fostering the Fowler's unique role in the multifaceted cultural conversations taking place at UCLA and farther afield.”
Robb earned an undergraduate degree in 1994 from Princeton University, a master’s degree in 1999 from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in 2007 from Yale University, where his thesis on the apartment compounds of Teotihuacan was awarded the Frances Blanshard Fellowship Fund Prize for an Outstanding Dissertation in the History of Art.
Robb has lectured and written on a broad range of subjects in the indigenous arts of the Western Hemisphere, from the copper plaques of the ancient Midwest to the history of collecting pre-Columbian art in the 1950s and ’60s, and has contributed essays on these and other topics to a number of edited volumes and journals. He taught classes on pre-Columbian art at Washington University in St. Louis and Saint Louis University. He has also served as a visiting curator at the Walters Art Museum and the Princeton University Art Museum.