MIF director to lead New York’s Culture Shed

Alex Poots, the man credited with bringing groundbreaking world premieres to Manchester, UK, is to head up a major new NYC arts venue.

Poots, who will step down as artistic director of the biennial Manchester International Festival after its 2015 edition next summer, has been named artistic director and chief executive of new Manhattan venue, Culture Shed.

The former director of contemporary arts at English National Opera will also leave his other current post as artistic director of Park Avenue Armory to lead the new USD360m (€288.7m) arts centre, currently under construction on the far west side of Manhattan and slated to open in 2018.

Culture Shed interior, courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group

Culture Shed interior, courtesy of Diller Scofidio + Renfro in collaboration with Rockwell Group

Culture Shed will commission and present innovative international work across multiple genres, including film, fashion, performing arts and music.

According to The New York Times, Poots will have an annual operating budget of USD28m. Chairman Daniel L Doctoroff told the paper: ‘What we don’t have in the city is a really flexible space. We don’t have a kunsthalle for New York. What we wanted was something that would be able to take down barriers between audiences and the institution in various disciplines.’

He added: ‘We were looking for somebody who was really a cultural entrepreneur, an impresario. We’re trying to do something that no-one has ever done before – it’s a real start-up – and in Alex we have found that person.’

Alex Poots © Antony Crook_VIG

Alex Poots © Antony Crook_VIG

Indeed, Poots has developed a reputation for bringing pop culture and ‘high art’ together: at MIF, which presents big-name world premieres and special events, he’s staged Kenneth Branagh’s Macbeth in a deconsecrated church, commissioned Damon Albarn’s first opera, and brought Marina Abramović, Robert Wilson and Willem Dafoe together to produce and perform the former’s striking live art biopic, The Life and Death of Marina Abramović.

Poots told The New York Times: ‘When I realised there was the potential for a new centre for arts and culture in one of the most important cultural centres in the world, it just seemed like an incredible possibility.’

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