Now in his 18th year as director of the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, Alex Nyerges is responsible for leading one of the nation’s top 10 comprehensive art museums with exciting and far-reaching strategic initiatives that have transformed the institution, making it more accessible, diverse, and inclusive.
Nyerges, who has more than 40 years of experience as an art museum director, came to VMFA from the Dayton Art Institute, where he was director and CEO from 1992 to 2006. Before his tenure in Ohio, Nyerges was the executive director of the Mississippi Museum of Art in Jackson, a position he also held at the DeLand Museum of Art in Florida.
A native of Rochester, New York, he graduated from George Washington University in Washington, DC, in 1982 with a master’s degree in museum studies. His 1979 undergraduate degree is from the same school with a double major in American Studies and in anthropology/archaeology.
As well as writing and lecturing widely on photography, Nyerges curated such exhibitions as Edward Weston: A Photographer’s Love of Life (2004), a major retrospective that traveled nationally, and In Praise of Nature: Ansel Adams and Photographers of the American West (1999), which also traveled nationwide. Among the many other exhibitions he has organized are Glory of the Silk Road: Art from Ancient China and Eternal China: Treasures from Ancient Xi’an, two major traveling exhibitions of art and artifacts from regional museums throughout China. In 2015 and 2017 Nyerges’s own photography was the subject of two solo exhibitions, Chasing the Light and Chasing the Light II at Glavé Kocen Gallery in Richmond. In 2018, his work was featured in a solo exhibition at the Cosmos Club in Washington, DC. In 2021, the Reynolds Gallery in Richmond exhibited Fleeting Light, an inaugural solo exhibition.
Nyerges has been a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors since 1989 and serves on the Mentoring Task Force Committee. He is a former member of the Board of Trustees and past Program Chair for the organization. As a member of the American Alliance of Museums, he serves as an Accreditation Field Reviewer. At the Virginia Center for Creative Arts in Amherst, Va., Nyerges served on the Board of Trustees, and former chair of the Strategic Planning Committee from 2009 to 2019; currently Nyerges is chair of the Audit Committee at VCCA. He is an Executive Committee member of the French American Museum Exchange (FRAME), a formal collaboration of museums comprising 16 cities in France and 16 museums in North America. In Washington, DC, Nyerges serves on the Art Committee of the Board of Management at the Cosmos Club as well as a board member at the George Washington University Museum and The Textile Museum.
In Richmond, Nyerges is a member of the Forum Club. He has served on the Asian American Society of Central Virginia, as Advisory Board member; the Mayor’s Richmond Real Estate Task Roundtable; the Mayor’s Tourism Commission, as co-chair; the Armory Steering Committee at the Black History Cultural Museum; and the Chamber of Commerce Capital Regional Collaborative. He is also an Affiliate Graduate Faculty member at Virginia Commonwealth University. Nyerges serves on the Artifact Selection Committee for the Time Capsule Replacement Project, Office of the Governor of Virginia.
In May 2011, Nyerges was presented the Chairman’s Award by the Richmond Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau for his role as the driving force behind VMFA’s major expansion and grand re-opening and for bringing the exhibition Picasso: Masterpieces from the Musée National Picasso Paris to VMFA. In September 2012, he was awarded “The Randolph-Macon College Award for Achievement in the Arts,” established by the College’s Arts Council to recognize individuals who have made significant contributions to Virginia’s cultural landscape. At the 2014 FRAME Annual Conference in Dijon, France, Nyerges was presented the rank of Knight in the Order of Arts and Letters (Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres) for his role in furthering the arts in France and throughout the world.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch honored Nyerges as a top-10 Person of the Year in 2015 for increasing the attendance and accessibility of VMFA. In 2017, Nyerges was named to Style Weekly’s “Power List” for Arts and Culture. That same year, the Shaanxi Provincial Cultural Relics Bureau in China named Nyerges as an Ambassador of Shaanxi Cultural Heritage. The honor was presented during an exclusive preview for the exhibition Terracotta Army: Legacy of the First Emperor of China, which attracted more than 200,000 visitors to VMFA during its run. In 2020, Nyerges was honored with the Richmond Region Tourism Impact Award, which recognizes an individual who best exemplifies outstanding leadership in the pursuit of excellence and who has advanced the tourism industry. Also in 2020, he was the recipient of the National Museum of China Friendship Award. Established in 1992 by the State Administration of Foreign Expert Affairs, this award is China’s highest honor granted to international individuals for their contributions to the nation’s development and cultural collaboration.
In 2021, Nyerges was the recipient of the Monumental Alumni Award, from the George Washington University. This award recognizes GW’s most outstanding living graduates who have had a positive impact and who embody the ideals of the university with enduring contributions through professional and humanitarian activities that offer inspiration and exemplify the power of a GW degree. Also in 2021, he was the recipient of the Virginia Architecture Medal for Virginia Service, the organization’s most prestigious public award. This medal honors individuals or organizations that have made an unusually significant contribution to Virginia’s built environment or to the awareness of the art world.
Photo: VMFA Director Alex Nyerges welcomes visitors to the museum’s new James W. and Frances G. McGlothlin Wing. (Photo by Katherine Wetzel, © Virginia Museum of Fine Arts)