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Read what alumni have to say about our Art Museums, Galleries, and Curating at the Institute.

Megan Barzizza

Age: 24 years old.

What is your nationality/where are you from?
United States

What did you enjoy most about the Art Museums Galleries and Curating semester course?
I enjoyed the museum and gallery visits, day trips, and trip to Amsterdam. Being able to discuss the principles that we were learning in the classroom in various exhibition settings helped me feel confident in my ability to evaluate displays from the curator’s point of view.

How did the course contribute to your development?
It introduced me to a variety of careers in the museum and gallery settings, which helped me develop a better idea of what career would be a good fit for me. It also provided me with theoretical knowledge and practical experience necessary to confidently write and talk about art exhibitions and displays.

How was the experience of Amsterdam and of the other study visits?
These experiences were invaluable because they provided a different perspective on how to present specific narratives through the display art objects. For example, the visit to the Hermitage in Amsterdam provided an opportunity to discuss two different countries’ (Russia and the Netherlands) approach to art exhibitions and the curatorial challenges that arise when two such institutions interact.

How did the professionals who spoke to you on the course help you to gain first-hand knowledge of working in a museum or gallery?
They helped us understand the reality of what their jobs entailed. I greatly appreciated the inside perspective on what various art careers require.

img_2527Nina Horvitz

What was the most formative moment in your career?

I consider myself still at the beginning of my new career, so there are many formative moments. There are gradual increases in significance for each event; whether from winning a good deal at auction to watching a collection increase in value over time. My journey began advising a collector for small regional art auctions, and I had a difficult time establishing sales for gallery pieces. After small successes at auctions over the past two years and digging into the global movements in the art world, I was able to secure my first gallery purchase for a collector at the end of 2017. A museum then invited for the work for exhibition in June 2018. Contact by the museum's curator is the point at which I decided that my path is finally set. I consider myself successfully on my way to being self-employed in the art world. At that moment that the museum contacted me, I realized that all of the research, traveling, education, relationship building I had so steadily pursued, set the foundation for my success. Most importantly, I must continue forward pursuing my vision of what I want to create.

What do you think is the key to succeeding in art world?

It is essential to define what personal success means to oneself, independent of the outside world. For me, it was to educate new young collectors in the global conversations in art and to build inspiring relationships with artists, galleries, and curators. Although we would all love to have sufficient financial compensation, it is often elusive and in the new reality maybe even non-existent. The next step is to visualize the essence of what one wishes to accomplish, yet maintain incredible flexibility. The truth is that not all doors are open to all equally. Being as open and flexible as possible has helped me squeeze through a crack or two. For the art world, however, unlike other industries, I think there is room for many- especially for those with dynamic, inspiring perspectives who can build future-oriented communities. Tapping continually into the inspiration that art provides as relating to one's life story as an individual to establish connections with others will keep the energy going and help others appreciate your service.

What artwork stays with you?

Any work of art from John Akomfrah inspires yet also haunts me long after I encounter it. One film, in particular, stands out, and that is Purple, commissioned by the Barbican Gallery in 2017. The artist is an expert at creating non-linear documentary style meditations on the state of 21st-century existence. It is a six-channel video consisting of archival film material in combination with newer images created by the artist in collage style film on the state of humanity and the world collectively. It demonstrates historical moments in time when terrible decisions were made by previous generations. The generation watching the film at this moment is the one left to decide the future. In his presentation of the facts, it is easy to be overwhelmed in hopelessness and anger at the state of the world. But it is that anger that inspired me to act; to make conscious decisions in my life to change and contribute actively to solutions. The film is compelling, haunting yet inspiring in its grandness.

With what figure or work of art do you most identify?

In 2017, Palais de Tokyo, Paris gave the artist Camille Henrot carte blanche to create an exhibition encompassing nearly the entire building. In the words of Henrot, Palais 26 pg 9, Days are Dogs deals with everyday problems, dependencies and specifically the effects upon us through hunger, alienation, and frustration. I identify with the methods of her curatorial presentation, themes and the grandness of scale. She collages together archeological artifacts of historical and contemporary culture with a combination of scientific methodology and 21st-century humanist ambition. She divides the days of the week into universal themes of our daily lives. Her visual artistic expression can be considered a sort of contemporaneous surrealism, which draws clearly from her French heritage. It is unique in that the characters do not look like us, yet we can identify our ambiguous gender selves in them. As she collaborates with other artists to fill the enormous space, it becomes a journey filled with intellectual musings, rebelliousness and a good dose of intellect. I think she is one of the best representatives of artists in my generation.

What role did London play in your education?

London was an essential part of my training, in so many ways it is impossible to write them all down. If I were to sum it in one word, I would say opportunity. London offers opportunity. For example, during my first semester, I walked into a gallery to inquire about a work of art and walked out with a translation job for an artist interview. It is a very open city, and the diverse student body helped me gain new global perspectives. There were some very talented individuals with a passion for art that finally inspired me to find a place for myself in the art ecosystem. I appreciate the European character, yet it is a place genuinely open to people as individuals. Historical and contemporary art are accessible to all, whether a contemporary gallery, a museum or smaller foundations. Unlike other countries or continents, the art ecosystem in London benefits from more substantial subsidization of the public art institutions. Because of this, the curators work hard at creating dynamic, accessible exhibitions. And it is this philosophy of accessibility that provides opportunities to many.

What is the most interesting thing you learned at Sotheby's Institute?

I took two courses and therefore would like to mention the most interesting in each. For Art and Business, although the art history presentation of Modern Art was engaging, I was genuinely inspired by the Contemporary Art module. Not presented as a set of specific rules or linearity, I learned to appreciate the freedom in developing my personal perspective in the analysis of the artistic process, work of art and contemporary context. It became fun, and I understood and improved my sensitivities to distill the essence of the work, independent of the artist.

The second most interesting was the exhibition analysis in the museums curating semester. In that semester course, I learned the skills necessary to understand art and its capacity to relate to audiences and even the historical narrative of an institution. Although it is essential to recognize the artist as an individual, I think interpreting artist's work through its ability to relate to other artists, and even architecture is vital in bringing art to broader audiences. In any case, it is the second skill that has sharpened my ability at advising for artwork with strong relations to the institutional art world.

What was the last exhibition you saw? Tell us about it.

“Maria Lassnig 1919-2014” at National Gallery Prague. I have always enjoyed seeing the single painting or two of Maria Lassnig scattered through various exhibitions in Europe. Her subject matter is current, and her importance as an artist is undisputed. Until recently, I have never seen a more extensive showing of her work. The exhibition included her earlier geometric abstraction paintings from the 1950s until the recent self-portraits using her characteristic pastel palette. Her fantastic Giacometti- like larval sculptures underscored the narrative of Lassnig an artist whose dialogue with her contemporaries, like de Kooning, Giacometti, and Braque when developing her style, has mostly been ignored in previous conversions of art history. In organizing the exhibition chronologically, the curators demonstrated her place among the artists of her generation, of which we were previously only shown the male colleagues.

Where do you think the art market is headed?

From where I am standing, I can see it going in two very different directions. One might conclude that it reflects of the state of world affairs. Undoubtedly, high valued art as an asset, with the market dominated by the largest of the most significant galleries has rosy near-term future. I think that this will continue as long as there are no significant developments in international tax laws.

I worry a little bit about the lack of funding, interest, and education in the arts. These problems are circular in nature with funding affecting all three, but political culture, and museums must also take responsibility for their contribution to the problem. As the middle section of museum supporters hollows out, connecting new increasingly nomadic generations will be difficult if they follow their previous business models, including insular board and organizational hiring practices. Including topics such as technology and methods to a post-colonial 21st century is a beginning, but it still does not address the how a museum should function for those below the middle class.

I see great potential for growth in non-collecting art centers in filling the widening gap between the loss of small and mid-level galleries and larger museums increasingly reliant upon blockbuster exhibitions. These more local institutions can reach politically, and culturally audiences left out while contributing to the attractiveness of the locality.

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