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The New York University Curatorial Collaborative

2015-01-28 17.55.47-2


The New York University Curatorial Collaborative began as a student-led initiative in 2014, designed to pair graduate student curators from the Institute of Fine Arts’ MA and PhD programs in Art History with rising seniors from the Steinhardt School’s Department of Art and Art Professions BFA program in Studio Art. Now in its fourth year, the NYU Curatorial Collaborative fosters interdisciplinary teamwork that prepares both the artists and art historians for future projects in their respective fields. Each year, the Collaborative hosts six student exhibitions—one group exhibition curated by three Institute students held at The Commons gallery and five exhibits at 80WSE Gallery featuring student artists from Steinhardt’s Senior Honor Studio, each curated by one Institute student.



The Necessary Intersections of Art

Edward J. Sullivan
Deputy Director; Helen Gould Sheppard Professor in the History of Art
Institute of Fine Arts and College of Arts and Sciences

The academic study of art history often involves long periods of silent contemplation – whether it be reading historical or theoretical texts, researching in archives or contemplating works of art in museum galleries. As is the case with all intellectual pursuits, however, the evolution of pedagogical practices and the ever-more acute need for interaction and cooperative learning has transformed the modes of absorbing knowledge and, in the case of art historical pursuits, has created a necessity for ever-greater and more productive intersections between the creators of works of art and those who use them as tools for research or explication. The need for dialogue and mutual project-construction on the part of artists and art historians becomes an integral part of the creative process on the part of practitioners of both forms of creativity.

The Curatorial Collective is a model of such cooperative innovation and mutually beneficial partnering. This student-driven initiative on the part of artists from the Steinhardt Department of Art and Arts Professions and art history MA and PhD candidates from the Institute of Fine Arts forms a model of interdisciplinary teamwork. The work of the artists is parsed, analyzed and placed into context by the art historians who benefit greatly from the conversations and exchanges of views and methods of working with the artists. Both groups profit from this interchange and intellectual give-and-take. Exhibitions and methods of display – and, by extension – modes of teaching and learning are mutually explored during the processes of artistic creation, selection of work to be exhibited, installation and juxtapositions of pieces in order to create an environment of productive visual dialogue for the viewers – who come from the ranks of NYU students, faculty as well as the general public. These multivalent group activities help to prepare both the artists and the art historians for future projects in their respective fields.

The current exhibitions are both thought provoking in their contents and timely in the issues they explore. While diversity of themes and approaches form a hallmark of the collaborative, there are certain connecting threads that run throughout the products of each of the artists chosen for the paired or collective shows. Each of the exhibitions and all of the works in their aggregate display an inevitable preoccupation with the intense aura of anxiety that pervades our society at a time of powerful challenges to received notions of propriety, collective harmony, civility and democracy. We all receive daily assaults to our idealistic notions of what the renowned literary semiologist Roland Barthes termed “how to live together” (the title of his famous series of lectures given at the Collège de France in 1976-77). Harmonious coexistence seems to be a thing of the past and the works of the artists represented here analyze and unpack the roots of our collective anxiety. The members of the Curatorial Collective have mined these themes to great advantage in their formation of the exhibitions that, in a communal and shared sense, serve as something of a road map to the traumas of daily life as the end of the century’s second decade approaches. The ominous clouds of societal darkness reveal shadows of doubt and fear, yet the presence of such strong demarcations of artistic creativity inform us of the way to discover paths that may not lead to the zones of comfort but will at least guide us to a collective understanding of how we may productively approach the phantoms that haunt our conscious and unconscious fears.