Carol Robbins, The Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Curator of the Arts of the Americas and the Pacific, is retiring after forty-seven years of service to the Dallas Museum of Art. In appreciation of her nearly fifty years of Museum work, and of her renowned curatorial expertise in ethnographic textiles, Robbins has been appointed Curator Emerita.
Carol Robbins joined the Museum in 1965 as the Secretary to the Director under Merrill Rueppel. She became a curatorial assistant in 1970, and subsequently served on staff within the DMA’s curatorial department, including the positions of Curator of Textiles and Curator of New World and Pacific Cultures, through her appointment as The Ellen and Harry S. Parker III Curator of the Arts of the Americas and the Pacific in 2006. She has been responsible for the Museum’s collections of ancient American and Indonesian art, which are of international significance, as well as the DMA’s Native American art collection. In particular, the DMA is one of the few museums in the country with a permanent collection of the regional art of Indonesia and Sarawak.
“Carol’s collaboration with the Museum will not end with her well-deserved retirement. We hope to have many opportunities to benefit from her knowledge and expertise over the coming years,” said Olivier Meslay, the DMA’s Associate Director of Curatorial Affairs.
Highlights of Robbins’ impressive career include the nearly fifteen textile exhibitions that she has organized since 1980, in addition to a significant number of acquisitions that are extraordinary examples of their type. Of particular note was the gift in the 1970s of the Wise Collection of Ancient American Art, along with two collections of African art, that gave the Museum added significance and stature among scholars and patrons.
Other extraordinary works of art acquired during her tenure, include:
- Crown with deity figures, Peru, Chavín culture, c. 1000–200 B.C.
- Cylindrical vessel with sacrificial scene, Guatemala or Mexico, Maya culture, c. A.D. 600–850
- Eccentric flint with heads of K’awil, the god of royal lineage, from the Maya culture of Guatemala and Mexico, A.D. 600–900
- Eye-dazzler blanket, Navajo people, c. 1880–1900
- Male figure, Asia, Indonesia, Dayak people, c. 1040
- Mask, Mexico, Gulf Coast Olmec culture, 900–500 B.C.
- Mouth mask depicting the head of a bird, Indonesia, Southeast, Leti Island, Luhuleli village, 19th century
- Pair of ancestor figures (ana deo), Asia, Indonesia, Nagé people, early 20th century
- Protective figure (jaraik) in the form of an animal, Indonesia, West Sumatra, Mentawai Islands, Siberut Island, Taileleu people, c. 1895–1905
- Tunic with checkerboard pattern and stepped yoke, South America, Peru, Inca culture, 1476–1534
Additionally, Robbins was coordinating curator for several nationally touring exhibitions, including Power and Gold: Jewelry from Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines; Court Arts of Indonesia; Lords of Creation: The Origins of Sacred Maya Kingship; Art of the American Indians: The Thaw Collection; and the upcoming Legacy of the Plumed Serpent in Ancient Mexico.
She served as a special consultant for the acquisition of textiles by the Zale Lipshy University Hospital at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in the late 1980s. Robbins coordinated the purchase and installation of three hundred Indonesian and Asian textiles in the public and patient rooms of the hospital when it opened in November 1989.
As a recipient of grants and fellowships, including the first staff fellowship of the Eugene McDermott Education Fund in 1975, Robbins visited museums and archaeological sites in Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras. She also studied Indonesian textiles in museums in The Netherlands.
“I hope the collection [of arts of the Americas and the Pacific] will preserve and make accessible objects that may not survive in their original environment, where traditions are rapidly changing,” Robbins once said. “I long for visitors to understand how wonderfully imaginative human beings are.”
About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) ranks among the leading art institutions in the country and is distinguished by its innovative exhibitions and groundbreaking educational programs. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 25,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the vibrant Arts District of downtown Dallas, the Museum welcomes more than half a million visitors annually and acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations.
The Dallas Museum of Art is supported in part by the generosity of Museum members and donors and by the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas/Office of Cultural Affairs and the Texas Commission on the Arts.