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Bard Features

CCS Bard at 20

Ann Goldstein receives CCS Bard’s Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial
Excellence at Capitale in New York City.
Photo by Karl Rabe
In the Bardian

Twenty years ago, there were graduate programs galore for aspiring painters and sculptors. There were doctoral programs for those desiring to be art historians, and M.B.A. degrees for those more inclined to arts administration. But there was one group of would-be arts professionals who were shut out.

“They were those often neglected, sometimes maligned, and usually underpaid brainiacs known as curators,” said cultural commentator Linda Yablonsky at one of the many events last spring saluting the 20th anniversary of Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies (CCS Bard), the country’s first-ever graduate program for those who conceive, organize, and mount museum and gallery shows.

A lot has changed since CCS Bard graduated its first class in 1996, but not the spirit of discovery and innovation shared by its students and faculty. “A collective sense of adventure? Yes, I would say so,” says Sydney Jenkins, director of the art gallery at Ramapo College of New Jersey and an alumnus of the inaugural CCS Bard graduating class. “When I went to interview I was still somewhat incredulous: curators and figures I had always admired—Peter Schjeldahl, Robert Storr, Lynne Cooke—would be teaching me, and not just giving one lecture? And it turned out to be true and wonderful.”

Founded by Marieluise Hessel and Richard Black in 1992, CCS Bard has undergone many transformations and expansions, most significantly the construction of the Hessel Museum of Art in 2006. The Center now comprises nearly 25,000 square feet of major exhibition spaces, a collection of more than 3,000 artworks from the 1960s to the present day, an extensive archive, and a 25,000-volume library.

The academic program has also grown, but its foundation remains the College’s broad philosophy of interdisciplinary research and dialogue. The two-year M.A. program still offers the same hands-on transmission of knowledge and expertise from preeminent arts professionals to students that Jenkins so gratefully recalls. And it continues to confront the major curatorial issues of the day—investigating artistic production and circulation in the age of globalization, for instance, or exploring the sometimes fraught relationship between technology and aesthetics.

“The most exciting thing is, you see these students come in, and they’re completely transformed by the time they leave,” says Tom Eccles, CCS Bard executive director. “In a sense, we’re not ‘training’ them to be curators. Curating is a very personal business—it doesn’t have to be about mounting shows in museums; it can be as diverse as deejaying an evening in the East Village. We’re giving our students the opportunity to discover the magic in it.”

As for the impact of CCS Bard, its graduates can be encountered today at museums and galleries from Beirut to the Bronx, Mexico City to Milan, and South Korea to San Antonio, putting their CCS training to excellent use at the cutting edge of the contemporary art world.

Several events and projects marked the 20th anniversary celebrations. The CCS Readers Series, a multidisciplinary, biannual publication, launched its first volume, Interiors, which addresses issues raised by a recent exhibition at the Hessel Museum, If you lived here, you’d be home by now. Online, as part of its newly renovated website, CCS Bard publishes the Red Hook Journal, a lively platform for discussion of contemporary curatorial issues.

Kicking off the anniversary fetes, Matters of Fact, an exhibition curated by Eccles with curatorial associate Nathan Lee CCS ’11, opened at the Hessel Museum in March. A collaboration between CCS Bard faculty and current and former students, the exhibition restaged installations of works from the Arte Povera and Pattern & Decoration movements, and paid special attention to the relationship between Marieluise Hessel and the artists Robert Mapplethorpe and Félix González-Torres. Student thesis exhibitions for 2012 coincided with the exhibition in the museum and included work by more than 25 major international and emerging contemporary artists, including Tony Oursler, Kiki Smith, Jutta Koether, and Lygia Clark.

In April, CCS Bard bestowed the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence upon Ann Goldstein, a widely respected curator who directs Amsterdam’s Stedelijk Museum. The Hessel Museum also announced the naming of one of its central galleries with a $500,000 gift from the Robert Mapplethorpe Foundation, in recognition of Hessel’s commitment to Mapplethorpe’s work and his foundation’s longstanding support of the Center’s mission.

In June, CCS Bard opened two exhibitions that raise questions of exhibition practices and the institutional structures surrounding contemporary art, and presented a conference, “Why New Forms?” organized by CCS alums Dan Byers ’07 and Ruba Katrib ’06. The exhibitions, From 199A to 199B: Liam Gillick, curated by Eccles, and Anti-Establishment, curated by Graduate Program Director Johanna Burton, showcase the kind of curatorial ingenuity and critical rigor that lie at the heart of CCS Bard’s mission. Presenting many seminal works from the 1990s—most of which are on view in the United States for the first time—the Gillick retrospective includes more than 20 exhibitions and projects that were pivotal in shaping the way we view exhibition making, curatorial practice, and the role of the artist today. Such critical questions are also raised by the 13 artists and artist collectives included in Anti-Establishment. Both shows are on view through December 21, 2012. For more information, please visit www.bard.edu/ccs.

Also in June, Luhring Augustine Gallery in New York presented Painting in Space, a group exhibition made possible by Bard Trustee Roland J. Augustine, to support CCS Bard’s Next Decade Campaign, which raises funds for the Center’s faculty and research and exhibition programs. Organized by Eccles and Burton, Painting in Space included works by 25 of today’s leading contemporary artists.

Read the fall 2012 issue of the Bardian:

Post Date: 12-28-2012