Eric Shiner, former museum director, auction house executive, and art gallery bigwig, will next lead Brooklyn multidisciplinary venue Pioneer Works, where he takes charge as the institution’s first executive director next month. The new post marks a return to the nonprofit world.
Shiner worked at Pittsburgh’s Andy Warhol Museum for eight years, for three years as a curator and five as director, and left the institution in 2016. Following that, he was a senior vice president at Sotheby’s until 2018, where he worked in private sales under what was then a new department at the house, headed up by Amy Cappellazzo and Allan Schwartzman. By making Shiner their first major hire, they hoped to make hay from his extensive knowledge of the Warhol market. At the time, Shiner said that his move illustrated the “porosity” between various commercial and nonprofit institutions; the move to Pioneer Works shows that the pores flow both ways.
Post-Sotheby’s, Shiner served a yearlong stint at London gallery White Cube, where he served as artistic director, based in New York and overseeing the gallery’s American operations, including seeking a New York venue. He holds two art history master’s degrees, from Osaka University and Yale.
“I realized that I miss the nonprofit sphere,” Shiner said in a telephone interview. “Critical thinking and education and art and equity and inclusion are the things that are most important to me. Especially with the state of affairs in our world today, when this role came up, it seemed like exactly what I’m meant to do with my skill set and my history, to effect the positive changes that society so desperately needs right now.”
Pioneer Works is a multidisciplinary arts and science venue, which opened in a former iron works in Red Hook, Brooklyn, in 2012. Founded by artist Dustin Yellin along with founding artistic director Gabriel Florenz, Pioneer Works is host to a variety of facilities, including art galleries, studios for artists’ residencies, a recording studio, a ceramics studio, and a lab for the creation of VR and AR projects.
In the past it has been the site of events ranging from the 1:54 African art fair to a concert by Bon Iver to a solo exhibition by Sally Saul. It boasts a vistorship of 150,000 annually. Among the thought leaders who have presented their work at Pioneer Works this past year are Gloria Steinem, Ronan Farrow, Jacolby Satterwhite, and David Byrne.
Shiner joins an institution that has grown dramatically over the last five years, going from revenues of about $1.3 million in 2014 to projected revenue of $8 million in 2020. And it’s aiming for far greater growth; according to the job listing, the museum is preparing to embark on a $30 million capital and endowment campaign.
“Having been in the commercial sphere for the past three years,” said Shiner, reflecting on his time at Sotheby’s and White Cube, “I’ve jokingly said I was able to do an MBA in art business and hone my acumen on a lot of fronts, like thinking about how deals are done and pitches are made. I hope to combine the art of the ask from the nonprofit sphere with the tact and the directness of the business transaction into hopefully a new hybrid that will prove successful.”
Even given Pioneer Works’ growth and its considerable audience, Shiner sees a lot of room for further outreach. “It is critically important that the multitude of things that happen there are communicated effectively to the world,” he said.
“I’m so excited about it because there isn’t anything else like this out there,” he added. “I’m interested in not only art but music and architecture and fashion, and my partner is a doctor, so I’ve gotten keen on science of late. Thinking about how to promote all those things, as well as communication and conversation amongst those things, is what drew me to this position.”
Shiner assumes his new role on January 6.
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