Meet the Milwaukee Art Museum’s New Curator

Liz Siegel is excited to start work at our city’s most picturesque museum.

Liz Siegel wasn’t looking for a new job. She’d been working at the Art Institute of Chicago for 25 years and was happy as the curator of photography and media art there. But when she saw that the Milwaukee Art Museum was searching for a new chief curator, she had to apply.

“MAM has a great collection, it’s a beautiful building, and it has a terrific staff,” Siegel says. “There’s also this wonderful community of supporters around the museum that feel very passionately about the museum and its place in the city.” 

Marcelle Polednik, MAM’s director, was quickly won over by Siegel’s goal of expanding the museum’s national and global impact. “That aspiration is something I was really seeking,” Polednik says. Siegel was offered the position in the fall and will officially start on Jan. 9. 

As chief curator, Siegel’s most public-facing role will be organizing exhibitions, but behind the scenes she’ll be working to expand the collection and MAM’s reach in the art world. That means research and what Siegel calls “generating new scholarship” by collaborating with academics, artists and other institutions. It also means searching for and acquiring new pieces.  

“Objects are at the heart of everything that we do,” Siegel says about her approach to curation. “We take care of them. We research them. We interpret them. They’ve got stories to tell.” 

She’ll also be overseeing the museum’s curatorial staff, including the curators of European art and photography, among others. She plans to spend her first few weeks exploring the nooks and crannies of the museum’s collection and working with staff to determine the best way to showcase what MAM has to offer. 

 “My hope is that several years into [Liz’s] tenure, we’ll look back and say this is the moment when we began to really establish our artistic identity,” Polednik says. 

Siegel’s Picks 

The new curator discusses four pieces she’s excited to work with at MAM. 

1. Study of a Model


“I was immediately impressed by both Pietschmann’s handling of the paint and the strikingly self-possessed subject, an African circus performer, depicted soon after Germany had established its first colonies in Africa.”

Study of a Model, 1885, Oil on canvas 41 1/2 × 31 1/2 in. (105.41 × 80.01 cm) Milwaukee Art Museum, purchase, with funds from Avis Martin Heller in honor of the Fine Arts Society M2020.39, Photographer credit: John R. Glembin

2. El Matador (Felix Asiego)


“This portrait of matador Felix Asiego shows Henri’s engagement with the work of Spanish old masters, developed over several trips to Spain; it’s a formative work on his path to a new American realism.” 

3. Pearl Harbor and the African Queen


“Pierce here reflected on patriotism, duty, war and race at the moment of the United States’ entry into WWII.” 

4. Two Piece Marble (Rangatira)


“This modernist sculpture is beautifully installed in my favorite gallery in the museum, set against the ever-changing lake.”


This story is part of Milwaukee Magazine‘s January issue.

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Archer is the managing editor at Milwaukee Magazine. Some say he is a great warrior and prophet, a man of boundless sight in a world gone blind, a denizen of truth and goodness, a beacon of hope shining bright in this dark world. Others say he smells like cheese.