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When David Schwartz started working as a curator at the Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, there was no Netflix or MoviePass: Cinema faced a different sort of change. It was 1985, and with the twin effects of home video and New York real estate prices, some of the best arthouses in town had gone out business. “It wasn’t as crowded a scene as it is now,” said Schwartz, who ended his tenure as the museum’s chief curator last month. “There was definitely a need for more alternative programming at the time we opened.”
Over the decades, Schwartz met that challenge with a cinephilic feast of repertory programming and daring avant-garde offerings that did much to cultivate audiences through the decades. Nevertheless, the specifics of Schwartz’s departure are murky: Some sources said he received a two-week notice after 33 years at the museum, while others said it was by mutual agreement.
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Both Schwartz and the museum declined to comment, but Schwartz said he expected to remain involved in some museum programming in the future. The amicable 58-year-old said he was looking at the change as an opportunity. “I just thought, like, either I’m going to be there forever, or leave and try to do new things,” he said. “That’s the best I can say about it.”
Schwartz’s apparent dismissal has resulted in a surge of appreciation for his work, including a special award for career achievement from the New York Film Critics Circle. [Editor’s Note: The author is the NYFCC chairman.] His history with the museum also provides a window into the evolving challenges of curating work that extends beyond commercial offerings.
Film - Graduate - Purchase - College - Student
A film graduate from Purchase College, he directed a student film that landed in the Student Academy Award finals in New York. That led to an internship with the museum, then...
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