Anna Eschapasse (MA 2000), currently director of exhibitions and outreach at the Musée National des Beaux-Arts du Québec, has been appointed director of exhibitions and outreach at the National Gallery of Canada, in Ottawa, where she will start in December. Anna began her career at Christie’s, in New York City, in 1996. From 2003 to 2009, she was director of international productions and relations at the Musée du Luxembourg in Paris. As executive assistant to the director of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts in 2009, she worked on the production of several exhibitions and handled communications related to the inauguration of the new pavilion of Canadian art and the reinstallation of the collections. She received a graduate degree in private law from the Université Paris II-La Sorbonne and holds a graduate certificate in museum studies from NYU. A member of the executive committee of the association of International Exhibition Organizers, she also attended the Attingham Summer School and the Getty Leadership Institute.

What attracted you to Bard Graduate Center’s graduate program?

In 1992, I had moved from Paris to New York with the desire to work in the cultural field. With a master’s degree in private law and no experience whatsoever in the field, I started by interning at the Brooklyn Museum, in the European Paintings Department. After few months, it was clear that museums were the place where I wanted to work. So I enrolled in the museum studies graduate program at NYU. As part of the program, I interned at the Cooper-Hewitt, where I explored the world of material culture and gained insights into how and why things are made. In the Prints and Drawings Department, I had access to their fabulous collection of ornemanistes’ drawings, sketches for interiors, and Piranesi prints, among other works. Then someone mentioned a new program in the history of the decorative arts. Since I had decided that, in order to work in a museum, I should get a master’s in art history, it was perfect timing. I was intrigued by the fact that Bard Graduate Center offered a non-traditional approach to objects and artistic movements. I have always liked to experiment with new things so I took the plunge.

What was your focus of study here, how did you find yourself involved with it?

The breadth of classes, the quality of the faculty, and the ability to feed my insatiable curiosity were just tremendous. I felt as if I were in a candy store! I grazed a lot, from the arts of the Middle Ages (with Timothy Husband, who took us into the Met’s vault) to an Introduction to Polish culture. I remember so many inspiring conversations: Michelle Majer on textiles and Derek Ostergard on English gardens, for example—and Ulrich Leben’s passion for eighteenth-century furniture. The 1994 looted art symposium, a field trip to see Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, Sally Sherrill’s classes on the Chicago Manual of Style, as well as wonderful hours spent in the library, were all memorable. I also made some very close friends. Since I did not have a clear professional goal or specific interest, the focus for my thesis came only in my last term. Because of my legal background, easy access to French archives, and fruitful conversations with Carolyn Sargentson, who had just published a book on the marchands-merciers, I decided to research the impact of the French Revolution on the furniture market. I later used some of my research for an essay on William Beckford’s collecting in Paris between 1788 and 1792, which was published in the Center’s exhibition catalog (2001). In the course of my first job at Christie’s, right after BGC, most of the objects I had to appraise and research were of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Describe your positions and your current/past projects?

I am currently director of exhibitions and education at the National Museum of Fine Arts in Québec City (, which I joined almost four years ago, when they were undergoing transformation. The construction of a building designed by the international architectural firm, Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), scheduled for completion in spring 2016, has indeed served as an impetus to reinvent this institution founded in 1933. I work with my team to devise exhibitions, produce publications, and create cultural and educational programs. The MNBAQ’s mandate is to preserve, promote and display art from Quebec. Thanks to the new pavilion, we will be able to showcase our contemporary art collections (visual arts, Inuit sculptures and decorative arts and design). In dire need of space, we currently only have two percent of the collection, which comprises over 38 000 objects, on view. The new Quebec decorative arts and design gallery will be the first of its kind in the world. As a member of the senior management team, I also make strategic contributions to the establishment of the MNBAQ’s priorities and activities.

This winter I will move on to become the director of exhibitions and outreach at the National Gallery of Canada (, in Ottawa. As such, I will be responsible for the strategic vision, development and production of all NGC’s local and travelling exhibitions, including participation in the Venice Biennale (the Canadian pavilion). I will also oversee the installation of the permanent collection, the publications program, and exhibition technical services.

What ultimately is your goal?

I am a passionate advocate for the social role of museums. My ambition is to be attuned and to harness the complex forces of our fast-paced changing world—cognitive sciences, technological innovations, globalization, demographics etc.—in order to contribute to making museums relevant, mindful, sustainable and connected. Without a systemic shift in posture and execution, museums’ commitment to fulfilling a public service mission can become archaic. However, by providing multiple viewpoints and safe places to gather, engaging in dialogues, and fostering collaborations, museums can chart a path that is both inspirational and empowering. Museums are no longer just keepers. They are producers of meaning and culture and act as sounding-boards as much as beacons.