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Mary Lea Bandy, who for many years led the film department at New York’s Museum of Modern Art and played a decisive role in its growth, died Sept. 22 in New York City after a long illness caused by a stroke. She was 71.
Bandy was a mainstay at MoMA for 32 years, having joined the staff in 1973 as associate editor, department of publications after having worked as assistant editor at Harry N. Abrams Inc., where she specialized in art-history textbooks.
After a stint as MoMA’s associate coordinator of exhibitions, she became administrator of the department of film in 1978 and acting director a year later. In 1980, she assumed the title of director of the department of film and was chief curator of the department of film and video from 1993 until her retirement in 2005.
In 1999, she also held the position of deputy director of curatorial affairs at the museum.
Under her auspices, the film department expanded considerably, adding the Roy and Niuta Titus Theater 2, two screening rooms, a video gallery and the Celeste Bartos International Film Study Center, which opened in Hamlin, Pa. in 1996.
She also launched a publication program and was instrumental in preservation and restoration efforts on behalf of the museum’s ever-growing film collection, establishing the Film Preservation Fund in 1980. MoMa has, of course, also been a popular venue for film premieres.
Among the many filmmakers persuaded by Bandy to donate prints of their films to the museum’s collection have been Federico Fellini, Woody Allen, Clint Eastwood, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Martin Scorsese, Stan Brakhage, Andy Warhol and Terence Davies.
Bandy organized innumerable exhibitions, tributes and retrospectives, oversaw the publication of many monographs and catalogs and was a longtime member of the selection committee of New Directors/New Films. She was decorated by the French government as Chevalier and then Officier des Arts et Lettres.
Born and raised in the suburbs north of Chicago, she graduated from Stanford University in 1965 with a B.A. in art history. She is survived by her husband, Gary.
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