Stephanie D’Alessandro, Art Institute of Chicago
I look forward to the possibility of participating on the CAA Board of Directors and directly contributing to an organization from which I’ve benefitted for many years. As a museum-based art historian specializing in modern art, I have witnessed the waning popularity of my academic field in museums and graduate programs and the resulting impact on the field itself. While there are many important issues requiring the board’s attention, I believe that one of CAA’s future directions should be to address the need for greater diversity in art-historical graduate study—especially in those fields that receive less attention today. This effort could be encouraged from the level of graduate education to programming at CAA’s Annual Conference. We must help to engender fresh interest and approaches to the wide range and history of artistic expression or face an increasingly detrimental effect on education, culture, and heritage.
In addition, I believe that we can do more to foster better relationships and creative working models between museum-based and academic art historians. Though this perceived gap of the “two art histories” has been addressed time and again, the day-to-day practicalities of the situation have affected our discipline and its future in critical ways that we have not fully considered. Given the economic climate today and the crisis among younger scholars looking for positions in both museums and academe—as well as artists engaged in criticism and writing—the relationship is an even more complicated and urgent issue that we must now address. The answers are not as black and white as they may once have been, and we need to think creatively together. I would like to be involved in helping the CAA board take the lead in assessing this new climate and envisioning a common future for us all.
Stephanie D’Alessandro is Gary C. and Frances Comer Curator of Modern Art at the Art Institute of Chicago. She received her MA and PhD with honors in art history from the University of Chicago, specializing in art of the Weimar Republic. She has contributed to numerous publications, including German Expressionist Prints: The Marcia and Granvil Specks Collection (2004) and Das Gesicht der Weimarer Republik: Physiognomische Diskurse 1918 bis 1933 (2000).
D’Alessandro began her career at the Art Institute in 1998 as an Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow and has organized several exhibitions for Chicago, including Poetics of Scale (2003) and Juan Muñoz (2002). Most recently, she oversaw the installation of the modern art collection in her museum’s Modern Wing (2009) and cocurated a major exhibition, Matisse: Radical Invention, 1913–17 (2010) for the Art Institute and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which won an award from the United States section of the International Association of Art Critics for Best Monographic Museum Show Nationally and a commendation for best installation from the American Association of Museum Curators. Prior to joining the Art Institute, D’Alessandro was a curator for the David and Alfred Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago for ten years, where she organized over twenty exhibitions, including Weimar Bodies: Fantasies about the Sexualized Body in Weimar Art, Science, and Medicine (1998) and Still More Distant Journeys: The Artistic Emigrations of Lasar Segall (1997), which traveled to the Jewish Museum in New York and the Musée d’art et d’histoire du Judaisme in Paris.
She is currently at work on a number of projects, including a comprehensive scholarly catalogue of the Art Institute’s modern collection, an exhibition on the museum’s works by Pablo Picasso, and a monographic study of René Magritte in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art and the Menil Collection.
Having served on the CAA board, I know that the most important qualification is the ability to work well with a group of diverse personalities with different viewpoints; you need to listen well to opposing opinions and be able to help bring a group to consensus on issues you never imagined you would be adjudicating. Candidates who come with narrow agendas tend to crash and burn. It is also essential that the board be composed of the most accomplished and respected people in our professions (adjusted for the different stages in their careers); this can mean the author of great books, an outstanding community-college teacher, or a successful administrator in a museum or university. This gives the board not just the respect of the membership, but also the perspective to lead us toward the highest overall standards in the profession.
I nominate Stephanie D’Alessandro, a young but highly successful curator of modern art at the Art Institute of Chicago. She went there after turning us down for a teaching job at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign—we selected her from an outstanding pool of applicants, and I was so impressed with her that I have followed her career ever since. Anyone who has seen the installation of the twentieth-century collection in the new wing of the Art Institute, or the great Henri Matisse show she recently organized with the Museum of Modern Art, will recognize not only high intellectual standards and imaginative scholarship, but also the ability to manage such things in complex institutions with many voices. She is balanced, even-tempered, and really smart. She has also shown herself to be the kind of person who will put service to the profession in front of other reasons to join the board.
—Jonathan Fineberg, Adjunct Curator, Parrish Art Museum, Southampton, New York; Gutgsell Professor of Art History Emeritus, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
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How to Vote
CAA members may vote for up to four candidates, including one write-in candidate (who must be a CAA member). The four candidates receiving the most votes will be elected to the board. CAA members may cast their votes and submit their proxies online; no paper ballots will be mailed. Please have your CAA user/member ID# and password handy when you are ready to vote. All voting must take place by 5:00 PM PST on Friday, February 24, 2012. CAA will provide a computer dedicated to the election in the registration area at the upcoming 100th Annual Conference in Los Angeles.
Barbara Nesin, CAA board president, will present the election results at the close of the next Annual Members’ Business Meeting, to be held on Friday, February 24, 2012, 5:30–7:00 PM (PST) in the West Hall Meeting Room 503, Level 2, Los Angeles Convention Center, 1201 South Figueroa Street, Los Angeles, California.