William C. Agee, an esteemed scholar of modern American art who brought his encyclopedic knowledge and avant-garde sensibility to generations of Hunter students and colleagues, died on Dec. 24, 2022 at age 86.
A former museum director and curator, Agee taught at Hunter College from 1988 to 2014, making exhibitions at the Hunter Art Galleries an integral part of his teaching. In 2004, he was awarded Hunter’s Evelyn Kranes Kossak Endowed Chair in Art History in recognition of his scholarship and deep commitment to Hunter as the public school of the arts.
A native New Yorker, Agee studied art history at Princeton and Yale universities and soon became a champion of little-understood artistic trends such as minimalism. He lived and breathed American modernism and inspired his students with his love of that path-breaking movement.
He served as an associate curator at the Whitney Museum and the Museum of Modern Art during the 1960s and later led the Pasadena Art Museum and the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, demonstrating “a forward-thinking, risk-taking sensibility” that sometimes outstripped the public’s appetite for such aesthetics, according to ArtNews.
His Modern Art in America 1908–68, published in 2016, is counted among the definitive surveys of the field.
An avid tennis player, Agee lived in Chester, Conn., during retirement. He is survived by his wife, Elita; a daughter, Cintra Agee; a son, Matthew; and three grandchildren.