Makayla Bailey and Michael Connor have been named to the joint role of co-executive directors of Rhizome, an organization affiliated with New York’s New Museum that champions born-digital art and culture through commissions, exhibitions, digital preservation, and software development. Bailey, who joined the organization late last year, was formerly Rhizome’s development director, while Connor since 2015 served as its artistic director, having arrived in 2013 as its editor and curator.
“This appointment marks a bold shift towards a joint leadership model at Rhizome, reflecting the organization’s egalitarian and collaborative ethos,” said Rhizome board chair Greg Pass. “It also represents both continuity and change.” Pass further noted that “the model of shared leadership [Bailey and Connor] bring provides a meaningful alternative to traditional ways of distributing power and influence within arts organizations.”
Bailey, a curator and writer, has worked at the Museum of Modern Art and The Studio Museum in Harlem, both in New York, as well as at LAXART in Los Angeles. In a statement, she pointed to the “need for curatorial perspectives on and an equitable historical accounting” of NFTs. “Rhizome is ideally positioned to provide this kind of framing for the field,” she said. “It’s worth noting that we even had a hand in creating this moment; it was part of a Rhizome 7×7 program in 2014 that Kevin McCoy minted the first NFT artwork as part of a collaboration with Anil Dash.” During his time at Rhizome, Connor cocurated the nonprofit’s Net Art Anthology initiative, which retold the history of net art from the 1980s to the 2010s through one hundred works and yielded an online exhibition, a gallery exhibition, and a catalogue. Citing Rhizome’s “important impact on the direction of digital art and culture,” Connor asserted that the organization would engage in dialogue with its community and put “tools, skills, and infrastructure into the hands of more people in the field” as the institution matures.
“With this new chapter, Rhizome will have a stellar directorial team that is another unique model, and I feel it uniquely positions them to continue to grow their public and establish the organization in a dynamic field as we lead up to the opening of the New Museum expansion,” said New Museum director Lisa Phillips.