Meet Christina Brungardt, the new director of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Brungardt was hired amid protests and a pandemic.
Christina Brungardt sitting in MMoCA
Photo by Patrick Stutz

“Contemporary artists always deal with that which is most pressing and most difficult,” says Christina Brungardt, the new Gabriele Haberland director of the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Brungardt saw artists take this approach in June after protesters vandalized MMoCA’s museum store and Black Lives Matter murals went up on the boarded-up windows of the museum and other businesses downtown. It struck a chord with Brungardt when she visited Madison from her home in Texas.

“It was really incredible to see artists showing up and preparing,” she says. “The energy and the activism were really tangible, and it was inspiring to see the community coming together.”

Prior to stepping into her new role on Aug. 31, Brungardt, a Kansas native, was deputy director and interim director at Contemporary Arts Museum Houston from 2016 to June 30.

She says MMoCA has a big-city vision but emphasizes its local ties. “It’s perfectly positioned for really interacting with major markets but still having a great support system for local artists and community-based projects,” says Brungardt, successor to Stephen Fleischman, who retired in May after nearly 30 years in the position.

MMoCA closed on March 16 due to COVID-19 but is open again with enhanced safety measures. The museum was closed again Sept. 12 to Sept. 25 due to the spike in COVID-19 cases in the downtown area.

The uncertain times did nothing to diminish Brungardt’s interest in the job. She appreciates the impact of contemporary art in the moment.

“Whether an artist is making a specific political statement or is making a declarative statement, that’s a component [of their work],” she says. “It should always, and will always, reflect its time and speak to its time.”

She’s intrigued to see what artists create as museums continue to gain a foothold in today’s society. Brungardt says museums have an important role in “allowing a space that’s safe for contemporary art and ideas.”

Brungardt, who can either speak or read four languages, has a bachelor’s from the University of Texas at Austin, a master’s degree in humanities and art history from the University of Chicago and a doctorate in art history from the City University of New York Graduate Center.

She indicates that picking her favorite style of art is like asking “who her favorite child is,” but she says she’s intrigued with how science shows up in art.

“One area of art that I think needs to be seen more in museums are artists who are working at the nexus between art and science, and really using the aesthetics of art to talk about the ethics of science — particularly important right now considering our world situation,” Brungardt says.

Tamira Madsen is a Fitchburg-based writer.Magazine footer that says "Like this article, get so much more by subscribing"