Harvard Museums Launch New Annual Program Focused on Innovative Curatorial Practice

April 30, 2014

On April 30, the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture and the Harvard Art Museums will launch a new annual program including seminars and a public lecture focused on innovative curatorial practice. The collaboration will showcase internationally renowned curators who are breaking new ground in the organization of exhibits.

The inaugural public lecture features Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, who served as artistic director of the critically acclaimed contemporary art exhibition dOCUMENTA (13), held in Kassel, Germany, in 2012. The exhibition, which drew nearly a million visitors, focused on the integration of science into the contemporary art world; it included off-site activities in Alexandria, Egypt; Kabul, Afghanistan; and Banff, Canada.

Founded in 1955, dOCUMENTA is an exhibition of contemporary art. Taking place every five years in Kassel, Germany, it is considered one of the most influential and significant exhibitions in the art world.

“One of the most important ideas behind the formation of the new partnership of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture was to develop programming for both Harvard and public audiences that bridges the historic and contemporary intellectual domains of the separate museums and fosters dialogue among them,” said Jane Pickering, executive director of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture. “This new initiative is a wonderful beginning to such an effort and inviting a world-renowned curator like Carolyn, who thinks creatively across the disciplines, provides a fantastic opportunity for us to explore new avenues to achieve this goal.”

“The Harvard Art Museums, as part of their teaching and research mission, seek to inspire thoughtful discourse and debate around the importance of art in society,” said Thomas W. Lentz, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums. “All Harvard’s museums aim to emphasize the role that original works of art, specimens, and artifacts play in an advanced education.” He continued: “We expect that these annual seminars will inspire students and young scholars from diverse fields of knowledge and will encourage new collaboration among all Harvard museums.” Free and open to the public, the April 30 lecture, Worldly Worlding: Curating the Imaginal Fields of Science and Art, will begin at 6 p.m. Professor Christov-Bakargiev will question how we define artistic practice and research, using examples of artwork and displays created for dOCUMENTA (13). She will investigate how exhibitions based on the accepted separation between fields of inquiry—between the physical and social sciences and art—can be reimagined for the purpose of a worldly ecology, coevolution, and flourishing.

Through this reimagining, we can see new object/patterns—and make clear why matter matters. Three seminars, hosted at three Harvard museums (Adolphus Busch Hall at the Harvard Art Museums; the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments; and the Harvard Museum of Natural History), will take place May 1–2. These seminars will offer opportunities for in-depth study of the issues raised in the public lecture. Using a common group of objects selected from the different museums for each seminar, Professor Christov-Bakargiev will explore new ways of curating objects across disciplinary divides.

Harvard graduate students from departments within the Faculty of Arts and Sciences, as well as the Graduate School of Education and the Graduate School of Design, will take part in each seminar, along with invited faculty, museum staff, and other members of the Harvard community. “Together the Harvard Museums hold millions of objects that represent the natural and cultural world from anthropology to zoology.

We want to use these collections to provoke the way we think about curating objects, to link collections to teaching and research at the university, and to bring to the broader public new ideas about how museums could bridge the sciences and the arts,” said Peter L. Galison, Joseph Pellegrino University Professor and Director of the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. “I am thrilled that dOCUMENTA (13)’s Carolyn Christov- Bakargiev, one of the world’s most innovative curators, has agreed to be our first leader of this new series.” Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev Carolyn Christov-

Bakargiev is an author, organizer of events and exhibitions, and researcher into artistic practices, the histories of art, and the politics of aesthetics. From 2009 to 2012, she was Artistic Director of dOCUMENTA (13), which took place in Kassel, Germany, from June 9–September 16, 2012; it also included off-site activities in Kabul, Afghanistan; Alexandria and Cairo, Egypt; and Banff, Canada. Previously, she was Artistic Director of the 16th Biennale of Sydney, Revolutions: Forms That Turn (2008), and Chief Curator at the Castello di Rivoli Museum for Contemporary Art (2002–08; interim director, 2009). From 1999 to 2001, she was Senior Curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center, an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art in New York. Previous group exhibitions include The Moderns, Turin (2003); Faces in the Crowd, London and Turin (2004); Città Natura (1997); and Molteplici Culture (1992). Her books include William Kentridge (1998), Arte Povera (1999), and for dOCUMENTA (13), the 100 Notes—100 Thoughts series as well as The Logbook and The Book of Books (2011–12). Until 2015, Christov-Bakargiev is serving as the Edith Kreeger Wolf Distinguished Visiting Professor in Art Theory and Practice at Northwestern University. She also has been named the Leverhulme Professor at the University of Leeds for 2014. In 2013, she served as the Menschel Visiting Professor in Art at The Cooper Union, New York, as well as the Pernod Ricard Visiting Professor in the philosophy of art and nature cultures at the Goethe-Universität Frankfurt am Main/Institut für Philosophie.

Harvard Museums of Science & Culture

Created in 2012, the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture (HMSC) consortium includes the affiliated research museums of the Harvard Museum of Natural History (the Museum of Comparative Zoology, Harvard University Herbaria, and the Mineralogical and Geological Museum), along with the Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, the Harvard Semitic Museum, and the Collection of Historical Scientific Instruments. The mission of the Harvard Museums of Science & Culture is to foster curiosity and a spirit of discovery in visitors of all ages, enhancing public understanding of and appreciation for the natural world, science, and human cultures. HMSC works in concert with Harvard faculty, museum curators, and students, as well as with members of the extended Harvard community to provide cross-museum exhibitions, interdisciplinary events, lectures, and educational programs for students, teachers, and the general public. HMSC serves as a window into both the extraordinary collections of its member museums and into the research of their faculty and curators. For further information, explore www.hmsc.harvard.edu.

Harvard Art Museums

The Harvard Art Museums, among the world’s leading art institutions, comprise three museums (the Fogg, Busch-Reisinger, and Arthur M. Sackler museums) and four research centers (the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, the Center for the Technical Study of Modern Art, the Harvard Art Museums Archives, and the Archaeological Exploration of Sardis).

The Fogg Museum includes Western art from the Middle Ages to the present; the Busch-Reisinger Museum is dedicated to the study of art from the German-speaking countries of central and northern Europe, and is the only museum of its kind in North America; and the Arthur M. Sackler Museum is focused on Asian, ancient, and Islamic and later Indian art. Together, the museums’ collections include approximately 250,000 objects in all media.

The Harvard Art Museums are distinguished by the range and depth of their collections, their groundbreaking exhibitions, and the original research of museum staff. Integral to Harvard University and the wider community, the museums and research centers serve as resources for students, scholars, and the public. For more than a century, the Harvard Art Museums have been the nation’s premier training ground for museum professionals, and they are renowned for their seminal role in developing the discipline of art history in the United States.

The Harvard Art Museums will open their new facility, designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop, to the public on November 16, 2014. The renovation and expansion of the museums’ landmark building at 32 Quincy Street in Cambridge will bring the three museums and their collections together under one roof for the first time, inviting students, faculty, scholars, and the public into one of the world’s great institutions for arts scholarship and research. In the Harvard Art Museums’ new home, visitors will be able to learn about the latest research connected to the objects on display; explore new ideas as they view artwork in the galleries; gain a glimpse of leading conservators at work; and in the Art Study Center, have opportunities for close study of a wide range of objects from the collections. harvardartmuseums.org

Media Contact: Blue Magruder, Director of Public Relations and Marketing Harvard Museums of Science & Culture bluemagruder@hmnh.harvard.edu 617-496-0049 Released: April 28, 2014, Cambridge, MA

See also: Press Release