Russell Panczenko has been the director and chief curator of the Chazen Museum of Art since October, 1984. As director and chief curator, Panczenko has grown the collection, through acquisitions and gifts, from approximately 12,000 objects at his arrival to more than 21,000 today, making it the second largest collection of art in Wisconsin. Strengths of the collection include Japanese Woodblock prints, twentieth-century modernist sculpture and drawings by sculptors, late 18th through early 20th century British watercolors, Midwest magic realism. He has established the Chazen as an institution well regarded for educational and artistic excellence, and his success at cultivating growth of the collection and establishing the museum’s reputation has culminated in a $43-million expansion project. The 86,000-square-foot addition doubles gallery space, provides state-of-the-art storage for care and preservation of the collection, special art study rooms, an auditorium with film capabilities, and a vibrant new lobby. Panczenko has served on the Artists’ Legacy Foundation board from 2006-2009, the Tandem Press advisory board, since 1987 and the Wisconsin Foundation for the Arts advisory board since 1990, and has been a member of several professional museum organizations his entire career.
Panczenko oversees all aspects of the museum, including curatorial, education, development, marketing and public relations, and exhibitions. He received his Doctorate in Letters in art history, specializing in 15th century Italian painting and its relation to humanism and the reemergence of Greco-Roman antiquity, from the University of Florence, Italy, in 1979. He served as assistant director at the Williams College Art Museum from 1980–1984.
Panczenko’s curatorial highlights include: exhibitions of notable contemporary artists including Richard Artschwager (1991), John Cage (1991), Judy Pfaff (2001), Gillian Jagger (2002), Peter Gourfain (2002), Xu Bing (1990 and 2004), and Nicola López (2009), and Frank Lloyd Wright; exhibitions of major Midwestern artists such as John Steuart Curry (1998–1999) and John Wilde (1999); and exhibitions of prominent collections of 20th century works, including The Terese and Alvin S. Lane Collection (1995 and 2008), The Simona and Jerome Chazen Collection (2005). Recently Panczenko organized two exhibitions of contemporary Chinese art: Tradition and Innovation: The Human Figure in Contemporary Chinese Art and A New Approach to Chinese Landscape Painting: Xu Bing, The Background Story. Panczenko has also worked closely with Stephen and Pamela Hootkin of New York City who recently donated their major collection of ceramic sculpture to the Chazen resulting in a new 5,000 square foot gallery dedicated to contemporary ceramics and glass.