San Francisco, CA, October 10, 2018 — Renny Pritikin, who has served as Chief Curator at The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM) since 2014 and has been a leading figure in the San Francisco Bay Area arts community for decades, has announced his retirement at the end of December 2018.
“After forty years in the field and approaching my seventieth birthday, with a great exhibition schedule lined up at The CJM over the next several years and an incredible professional team in place, I think this is an appropriate moment to step back from my daily responsibilities,” says Pritikin. “I am grateful to our Executive Director and the trustees and supporters of The CJM, and for the great fortune I have had to work with so many artists, mentor emerging curators, and collaborate with so many talented colleagues.”
“We are so proud of the work Renny has done for The CJM,” says Lori Starr, Executive Director, The CJM. “Renny has succeeded in foregrounding The CJM’s core values of dialogue and diversity of opinion, passion for the Jewish experience, commitment to artists, and the pursuit of excellence in developing original exhibitions and those organized by other institutions. He has also helped build a world-class curatorial and exhibitions team that is ideally positioned to develop innovative exhibitions that make the diversity of the Jewish experience relevant and engaging for a 21st century audience. We anticipate Renny working on some projects with us in the future as we shape our curatorial plans going forward.”
During his tenure at The CJM, Pritikin actively engaged a diverse group of local, national, and international contemporary artists to consider intriguing aspects of Jewish thought for the creation of more than a dozen original exhibitions and installations, many of which were accompanied by digital or print publications. Among those were his recent 2018 collaboration with guest curator Mark Dean Johnson, Contraption: Rediscovering California Jewish Artists; the 2017 exhibition Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid (with former Assistant Curator Pierre-François Galpin); and the 2015 exhibitions NEAT: New Experiments in Art and Technology and Night Begins the Day: Rethinking Space, Time, and Beauty (with former Associate Curator Lily Siegel). One of Pritikin’s personal favorites is the current exhibition Lew the Jew and His Circle: Origins of American Tattoo, inspired by the private tattoo art collection of longtime friend and tattoo legend Don Ed Hardy.
Pritikin has been at the vanguard of the field for much of his career, serving as Co-director of New Langton Arts in San Francisco from 1979 to 1992, Chief Curator at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts from 1992 to 2004, and Director of the Nelson Gallery and Fine Arts Collection at the University of California, Davis from 2004 until 2012. He served as a senior adjunct professor in the curatorial practices graduate program at the California College of the Arts in San Francisco from its inception in 2003 until 2015.
In his curatorial work, Pritikin gave early support to the careers of artists such as Nayland Blake, Nancy Rubins, Fred Tomaselli, Barry McGee, Margaret Kilgallen, and Chris Johanson, and brought the work of artists Tim Hawkinson, Tom Friedman, Doris Salcedo, and many others to the Bay Area for the first time. He is known for introducing aspects of popular culture into the museum and fine arts context, including retrospectives of the work of automobile customizer Ed “Big Daddy” Roth; futurist and Blade Runner designer Syd Mead; and magician and historian Ricky Jay.
Pritikin has published and lectured widely in museums throughout Japan and New Zealand, as a guest of the State Department, and as a Fulbright scholar, respectively, and toured Israel as a Koret Israel Prize winner. Additionally, Pritikin has served on numerous grant panels and exhibition juries, including work with the National Endowment for the Arts, California Arts Council, and San Francisco Arts Commission.
Born in New York City, Pritikin received his BA from New School College, NYC, and an MA from California State University San Francisco in Interdisciplinary Arts.
With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The facility, designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is a lively center where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather to experience art, share diverse perspectives, and engage in hands-on activities. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase L’Chaim (To Life), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in an exploration of the Jewish experience in the twenty-first century.
Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibitions and Jewish Peoplehood Programs comes from the Koret Foundation. The Museum also thanks the Jim Joseph Foundation for its major support of innovative strategies for educating and engaging audiences in Jewish learning. Additional major support is provided by two Anonymous donors; Alyse and Nathan Mason Brill; Carbon Five; Gaia Fund; the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; Suzanne and Elliott Felson; Wendy Kesser; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; Nellie and Max Levchin; Millennium Partners, the Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund; The Lisa and John Pritzker Family Fund; Dorothy R. Saxe; Seiger Family Foundation; Taube Philanthropies for Jewish Life and Culture; and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.
Thank you to the Helen Diller Family Foundation for their support of the Helen Diller Institute at The Contemporary Jewish Museum.