To hear Bonnie Clearwater tell it, there was no competition when it came to deciding who will become the Museum of Contemporary Art's first full-time curator.
In her introduction to Alex Gartenfeld's talk on his exhibit of New York artists in Rome (Empire State: New York and Beyond), Wednesday night, the executive director and chief curator at the MOCA said the 26-year-old Columbia grad was the only person ever recommended to her. Like Clearwater, Gartenfeld is a Columbia University-trained art historian.
"So I know the rigor he went through," she said.
- Alex Gartenfeld Joins MOCA as Curator
During his near hour-long talk on his upcoming exhibition, co-curated with Sir Norman Rosenthal, at the Palazzo delle Esposizioni in Rome (Apr. 22 - July 21), he revealed a keen sense of contemporary art, its social relevance and the history that informs it. He also expressed an almost breathless passion not above noting favorites in the exhibit and personal relationships with the artists, who include legends like Koons and Schnabel but also contemporary dynamos like LaToya Ruby Frazier, whose photographs appear like living collages. Then there's Rob Pruitt, who aims to create giant models of dinosaurs reacting to their presence in a museum, from contemplating still images from the Hoarders reality show to "shock of the real" expressions.
This bright, well-spoken young man is certainly no fluke. He has helped organize more exhibits across the world than he has years on him. After his insightful slide-show preview of Empire State: New York and Beyond, he talked about his next step in his career as a curator at MOCA. He credits Columbia and, he adds with a heavy, honest laugh, "the school of life," for getting him where he is now.
"I'm really excited to be joining the community," he says of coming to Miami. "I'm really excited to be adding a new perspective to the community. I'm really excited to engage the community through programs, more talks, and more lectures, video screenings. I've been impressed with everyone that I've met so far."
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He seems very eager to engage Miami's art scene on an array of levels, and, he notes, he has done his homework. "I'm very familiar with the museums, and I've done business with a lot of the artists here. I don't profess to know everything, so I'm excited to meet the artists who live here and work with them more closely."
Gartenfeld moves into his office at MOCA on May 10, 2013.
Follow Hans Morgenstern on Twitter @indieethos.