The Robert Rauschenberg Foundation is going to Yale for its next leader.
The foundation plans to announce this week that it has picked Courtney J. Martin, the director of the Yale Center for British Art, as its next executive director. She will begin her new job this spring.
“Courtney is a dynamic and tested leader in the arts,” said Michael Straus, chairman of the Rauschenberg Foundation’s board, in an interview. “She has the qualities we think of when we think of the foundation — flexibility, openness and willingness to take chances.”
The Rauschenberg Foundation reported more than $657 million in total assets for 2022, making it among the largest such artist foundations in the country, said Christine J. Vincent, the managing director of the Aspen Institute’s Artist Endowed Foundations Initiative.
Those substantial resources appealed to Martin. “Funding in the arts has dwindled,” she said in an interview. “But so many things need attention. The potential for this foundation to change arts philanthropy is limitless.”
Martin succeeds Kathy Halbreich, who stepped down from the executive director role last year, after serving almost six years in the job; Halbreich, who had been associate director of the Museum of Modern Art, has been a consulting adviser since she left.
“I wasn’t looking in any way,” Martin said of the job offer. “But this is a once-in-a-career kind of opportunity.” Before her current Yale job, which she began in 2019, Martin served as chief curator and deputy director of the Dia Art Foundation.
Rauschenberg (1925-2008) was one of the most influential artists of his era, perhaps best known for his “Combines,” a hybrid of painting and sculptures, and for his performance-based work with collaborators like the choreographer Merce Cunningham and the composer John Cage.
The artist established his foundation in 1990, and it assumed its current structure a few years after his death.
Based in New York and on the island of Captiva, Fla., the foundation normally maintains a residency program for some 70 artists a year, largely on Captiva, with a smaller number using its New York archives.
The Captiva residency was shuttered during the coronavirus pandemic, and then Hurricane Ian in 2022 damaged the large compound where it takes place, which includes Rauschenberg’s former home and studio. Straus said it was expected to reopen this summer.
“We took advantage of this time to do some needed renovations and climate-proof it for future storms,” Straus said.
The foundation also makes grants to arts and social justice organizations, produces the ongoing catalogue raisonné of Rauschenberg’s work and maintains its extensive holdings of his art, lending to museum shows. It periodically sells works to fund its operations.
Martin’s tenure at the Yale Center for British Art, which has a budget that ranges from $25 million to $30 million a year, included establishing a residency, the Henry Moore Foundation Artist in Residence program, which goes to a Yale School of Art student.
The Rauschenberg residency, which is sought after by artists, has one facet that Martin particularly endorsed.
“I like that for many years it has invited people to come with their whole families, and many residencies don’t,” Martin said. “It opens up the conversation about who can be an artist. That’s about equity.”
At Yale, Martin put on shows of work by Bridget Riley, Marc Quinn and Njideka Akunyili Crosby, among others.
“I’m excited by the fact that I will be talking to artists all the time,” she said of the foundation position. “Every job I’ve ever had has been about finding ways to be closer to artists.”