Concluding an international search, the Denver Art Museum (DAM) recently announced Victoria Lyall as the new Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Pre-Columbian Art. Lyall, a seasoned former curator at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), will oversee the DAM’s pre-Columbian art collection, which represents nearly every major culture in Mesoamerica, Central América and South América. She will join Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Spanish Colonial Art, Jorge Rivas Pérez, in the museum’s New World department.
“Victoria’s scholarly depth, multifaceted experience, bilingual ability and connection to the younger generation will be vital assets to the museum’s pre-Columbian art collection,” said Christoph Heinrich, Frederick and Jan Mayer Director of the DAM. “Her commitment to incorporating community voices and interactive elements into exhibitions fits with our overarching vision for the institution. We are delighted to welcome her to Denver.”
Lyall joins the DAM from San Francisco State University’s museum studies program where she has been an associate professor since 2014. At the university, she developed classes that bridged theory and practice, including exhibition design and curation, and lent her curatorial expertise to the university’s new Global Museum. In her classes, Lyall examines how museums are addressing global community needs and the impact new technologies and online audiences have on museums globally. Prior to taking the university post, Lyall had a successful 10-year career at LACMA, advancing from a curatorial assistant to the associate curator of art of the Ancient Américas. During her tenure, Lyall oversaw the reinstallation of the Ancient Américas permanent collection galleries and facilitated the development of a Mellon Foundation-funded project, a research institute and a postdoctoral curatorial fellowship dedicated to the Ancient Américas collection.
“In my opinion, two aspects distinguish the Denver Art Museum from other institutions,” said Lyall. “First, the DAM’s pre-Columbian holdings stand as one of the world’s most significant collections and complement the museum’s Colonial masterpieces. I am thrilled to join curator Jorge Rivas and together explore the New World’s rich and complex history. The ability to place the ancient past in dialogue with the colonial and modern Americas is particularly important here in Denver, a vibrant and an increasingly Latino city. Second, the steadfast institutional support for scholarly research and publication, thanks to the generosity of Jan Mayer and her late husband Frederick, ensures that the museum will continue to push the field forward and disseminate the latest discoveries to its audiences.”
Lyall has organized exhibitions that have been shown at LACMA, Dallas Museum of Art and the Fowler Museum at University of California Los Angeles (UCLA), including The Painted City: Art from Teotihuacan (2015), The Ancient Maya World: Masterworks from the Permanent Collection (2014), Chupícuaro: The Natalie Wood Gift of Ancient Mexican Ceramics (2013) and Children of the Plumed Serpent: The Legacy of Quetzalcoatl in Ancient Mexico (2012), which she co-curated with Drs. Virginia Field and John Pohl. Her curatorial research spans the breadth of ancient American cultures from Olmec to 16th century Tenochtitlan and Cuzco. A former Fulbright scholar, Lyall conducted extensive fieldwork in southern Mexico, particularly in the Yucatan peninsula, on 9th and 10th century murals. She has traveled extensively throughout Latin América for research and maintains an extensive, professional network of colleagues and cultural foundations throughout Latin America and Europe.
Lyall earned her Ph.D. in pre-Columbian art history from UCLA, a master of fine arts in art history from Tulane University and a bachelor of arts in history of art and anthropology from Yale University. She will take on her role as the new Frederick & Jan Mayer Curator of Pre-Columbian Art on Jan. 25, 2017.