Rome's MAXXI National Museum of 21st-Century Arts has hired independent curator and critic Hou Hanru as its new artistic director. He takes up his new post in September.

Hou, who lives in Paris and San Francisco, was the director of exhibitions and public programs and the chair of exhibition and museum studies at the San Francisco Art Institute from 2006 to 2010. He curated the fifth Auckland Triennial in New Zealand (on view through Aug. 11). In his new post, Hou will work with Margherita Guccione and Ana Mattirolo, directors of MAXXI Architettura and MAXXI Arte.

The museum, only three years old, has faced severe financial difficulties in its short history, and was nearly shut down by the Italian government last spring after drastic cuts to federal funding created a growing budget deficit. Fondazione MAXXI president Pio Baldi resigned in May of 2012, and the government appointed a special administration to guide the museum through the crisis. Current president Giovanna Melandri, an Italian politician, was hired in October.

Hou is aware of the difficulties still plaguing the museum. "It's a complicated time in Italy and many parts of the world facing the challenge of global restructuring in economy, culture, politics and human values," he said in a press release.