The Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College

Bard College seeks to realize the best features of American liberal arts education, enabling individuals to think critically and act creatively based on a knowledge and understanding of human history, society and the arts.  Founded in 1860, Bard has built a reputation as a place of innovation in higher education and a force for the rebirth of intellectual thought in public life.

The Center for Curatorial Studies and Art in Contemporary Culture at Bard College (CCS Bard) is an exhibition and research center dedicated to the study of art and exhibition practices from the 1960s to the present day. Founded in 1990, the Center initiated its graduate program in curatorial studies in 1994. The curriculum is specifically designed to deepen students’ understanding of the intellectual and practical tasks of curating exhibitions of contemporary art, particularly in the complex social and cultural situations of present-day arts institutions. The mission of the Center’s graduate program is to provide practical training and experience in a museum setting and an intensive course of study in the history of the contemporary visual arts, the institutions and practices of exhibition making, and the theory and criticism of the visual arts.

The Center for Curatorial Studies is housed in a 38,000-square-foot building that was completed in December 1991 and inaugurated in April 1992.  To accommodate its growing collection and programs, the facility was expanded and completely renovated in 2006 to include the Hessel Museum of Art, a new 17,000 square-foot exhibition space dedicated to the Marieluise Hessel Collection of over 1,700 works.  The renovation included a significant expansion of the Center’s library and classroom spaces, and the construction of a new graduate student lounge where CCS students can meet informally to discuss group projects. The expansion and renovation of the Center library, classroom space and student lounge was made possible through the generosity of Edwin L. Artzt, the LLWW Foundation, and Melissa Schiff Soros and Robert Soros.

The mission of the Center’s exhibition program is to encourage and explore experimental approaches to the presentation of contemporary visual arts, particularly approaches that reflect the Center’s commitment to the multidisciplinary study of art and culture.  Since 1992, CCS Bard has presented more than 50 museum exhibitions in the CCS Bard Galleries, many of which have traveled to institutions around the world.  Previous exhibitions include:  Uncertain States of America, a major survey of forty-five young American artists curated by Hans Ulrich Obrist, Daniel Birnbaum and Gunnar Kvaran (Summer 2006); major retrospective exhibitions of the Brazilian sculptor Tunga (1997) and American artist Dave Muller (2002); and the first museum exhibitions of Kara Walker (1995) and David Shrigley (2001).  The Center’s exhibition program is augmented by a vibrant public lecture and “Conversation” series in which prominent scholars, critics, and artists address issues relating to the contemporary visual arts, curatorial studies, and the history of exhibition making.  Previous presenters for public lecture events include:  Benjamin Buchloh, Chuck Close, Arthur Danto, Donna De Salvo, Robert Gober, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Dan Graham, Agnes Gund, Isaac Julian, and Molly Nesbit.  All Center exhibitions and public events are free and open to both the Bard community and the wider public.

Graduate Program in Curatorial Studies

For the past twenty years, The Center for Curatorial Studies has housed one of the world’s leading graduate programs dedicated to the study of historical models for the presentation and reception of art, and to the development of innovative ones. Originally conceived in the early 1990s to address the burgeoning, largely unexamined terrain of international curatorial practice, the Graduate Program has since evolved into an institution poised to account for artistic production and circulation in light of contemporary objects of inquiry including, but not limited to: globalization; modes of networks and distribution; technology and aesthetics; spatial politics; new institutionalism; social practice; and artistic and archival research. Seen through the lens of curatorial studies, the vectors of such a broad list take on real specificity, allowing for reflection on the growing—if still productively rogue—history of curatorial practice while providing a firm foundation for experimental projects in the field.

CCS’s Graduate Program is a Master’s Degree granting, two-year course. It is uniquely positioned within the larger Center’s tripartite resources, which include the archives/library and the Hessel Museum of Art, with its rich permanent collection. The Graduate Program’s curriculum emphasizes the interrelatedness of practice and discourse, disavowing ahistorical or anti-intellectual approaches even while encouraging alternative and even oppositional interpretations of artistic, institutional, and cultural histories. Students, faculty, and visiting artists, curators, and researchers make up a shifting community of thinkers and add to an engaged investigation into the stakes and claims for curating and its associated tasks. The Graduate Program’s aim is to provide a sustained platform for dialogues around curatorial practice as it relates to art and cultural histories and, as important, as it attends to and configures future possible endeavors.

CCS Bard Library and Archives

The Library and Archives at the Center for Curatorial Studies are a vital research center specializing in curatorial studies and the contemporary arts.  Although the collections are non-circulating, the library and archives are open to the Bard community, as well as outside researchers and scholars specializing in the contemporary arts.  The library and archives are also a dynamic and integral component of the Center’s 2-year graduate program supporting the advanced research of curatorial studies students.

The library contains over 25,000 volumes focusing on post-1960s contemporary art and curatorial practices.  The main collection includes extensive holdings of international exhibition catalogs, artists’ monographs dating to the 1960s, and over 60 current subscriptions to international art journals and periodicals covering the contemporary arts and curatorial practices.  Special Collections holdings include a significant collection of approximately 80 historic artist-produced periodicals, an extensive collection of limited edition, signed, and out of print exhibition catalogs, a media collection, and a collection of artists’ books.  Through donation and purchase, the library is comprehensively collecting the full publication history of select international exhibition venues, art publishers, and small presses.

The CCS Bard Archives contain the institutional archives for the Center for Curatorial Studies and the Hessel Museum of Art.  The collection contains documentation of the complete exhibition and programming history of CCS Bard.  Other collections include the organizational archives of select galleries such as the Virginia Dwan Gallery Archives, and the personal papers of select curators, artists, and artist-run spaces and initiatives.  The archives also contain artist files for the artists represented in the Hessel Museum collection, as well as Study Collections which document significant international curators, and a selection of historic exhibitions.