Celebrating Female Agency in the Arts - Christie's Education Symposium

Against All Odds: Women Curators and Directors in Art Museums Before 1960

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Most curatorial staff at art museums such as the Guggenheim, the Met, MoMA, and the Whitney nowadays are women. Two of these distinguished New York institutions were not only founded by women, but all four were the stage of a few female curators’ remarkable trajectories in the first half of the twentieth century, in an unquestionably male-dominated world. I propose to celebrate the achievements of pioneering women curators whose careers bloomed before 1960, with an overview of their trials and triumphs -- launching new curatorial departments, defining heretofore uncharted fields of research and collecting, rising to the top of the ladder, and playing seminal roles within their museums and beyond. This session is a springboard to reflect on the specific challenges, distinct merits, and broader significance of women’s careers within the history of art museums.

Examples of these extraordinary women include Juliana Force (1876-1948), who was director of the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1930 to 1948; Hilla Rebay (1890-1967), director of the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum from 1939 to 1952; Iris Barry (1895-1969), who created MoMA’s film department in 1932; and Dorothy Miller (1904-2003), curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA from 1934 to 1969; but also Monuments Women like Rose Valland (1898-1980) at the Musée du Jeu de Paume in Paris; Ardelia Hall (1899-1979) who started her career at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston; or Edith Standen (1905-1998) who concluded hers at The Met—all of whom were instrumental in the Allies’ restitution efforts following the systematic Nazi looting of art during WWII.


Dr. Christel Hollevoet-Force

Dr. Yao-Fen You
Prof. Dr. Rainer Stamm
Gloria Köpnick
Dr. Wiebke Gronemeyer
Dr. Adrian Sudhalter

Course dates

June 26 - 27, 2018

Christie's New York
20 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY 10020


Dr. Christel Hollevoet-Force Ph.D.,
Associate Research Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

Dr. Christel Hollevoet-Force, Associate Research Curator, Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Force contributed to various Met catalogues on subjects ranging from the dealers Ambroise Vollard and Pierre Matisse to collectors such as Muriel Newman and Alfred Stieglitz, in addition to Picasso in The Metropolitan Museum of Art (2010), and Matisse: In Search of true Painting (2013). She contributed to the proceedings of the symposia “Revoir Picasso” (Musée Picasso in Paris, 2015), “Paris-Berlin: Réceptions Croisées” (Centre allemand d’histoire de l’art, Paris, 2016), and “Collecting and Provenance” (Israel Museum in Jerusalem, 2016). In 2017, she co-organized the symposia “Pioneers of the Global Art Market” at Christie’s Education, and “The Brummer Galleries in Paris and New York” at The Met. She received her PhD from the CUNY Graduate Center, her MA from McGill University, and her Licence from the Université Libre de Bruxelles. Force held curatorial positions at the Whitney Museum of American Art (Independent Study Program), the Museum of Modern Art (1990-99), the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum (2000), and MoMA again (2001-5). Force is on the steering committee of the German/American Provenance Research Exchange Program for Museum Professionals (2017-19).



Dr. Yao-Fen You
Associate Curator, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, Detroit Institute of Art

Paper Title: Adèle Coulin Weibel (1880–1963): Head of the Textile Department (and “Official Rag Picker”) at the Detroit Institute of Arts 

Dr. Yao-Fen You, Associate Curator of European Sculpture and Decorative Arts at the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA). At the DIA, You’s responsibilities range from arms and armor and medieval sculpture to European ceramics and textiles. She has published widely on Northern European art in all its variety. Recent publications include "The ‘infinite variety’ of Netherlandish carved altarpieces" in the edited volume Netherlandish Sculpture of the 16th century (2017) and Coffee, Tea, and Chocolate: Consuming the World (2016). The essay “Paul Coremans, Edgar Richardson and the 1960 Flemish Art Show: A Transatlantic Friendship Forged by a Transatlantic Exhibition” is forthcoming. Prior to joining the DIA in 2008, she held positions at the Fogg Art Museum, the University of Michigan Museum of Art, and the J. Paul Getty Museum. She received her PhD in art history from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and her BA from the University of California, Berkeley.



Prof. Dr. Rainer Stamm
Director of the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg, Germany

Paper Title: Johanna Hofmann-Stirnemann (1899‒1983): First Female Museum Director in Germany

Prof. Dr. Rainer Stamm, Director of the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg, Germany. When he became director in 2010, Stamm started to investigate the history of the museum, which was founded at the beginning of the Weimar Republic by Walter Müller-Wulckow. The latter expanded the former collections of the Grand dukes to include the modernist movements. Stamm authored numerous publications on the history of modernism in Germany, and the "museum reform movement" in the 20th century.



Gloria Köpnick
M.A., Scientific Assistant at the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg

Paper Title: Johanna Hofmann-Stirnemann (1899‒1983): First Female Museum Director in Germany

Gloria Köpnick, M.A., Scientific Assistant at the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg. Köpnick studied art history in Berlin and Paris (2007-2014); was Academic Volunteer at the Landesmuseum für Kunst und Kulturgeschichte Oldenburg (2014-2016); and has been scientific assistant for the exhibition-project "The Bauhaus in Oldenburg - avant-garde in the province" at the Landesmuseum Oldenburg since 2016. She also does freelance work as an art historian and journalist. She is currently working on her PhD dissertation, titled "The Association for Young Art in Oldenburg (1922-1933)." 



Dr. Wiebke Gronemeyer,
Postdoctoral Fellow, Jacobs University Bremen

Paper Title: Ursula Hoff (1909–2005): Pioneer Art Historian in Australia, and First Woman Curator at the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne

Dr. Wiebke Gronemeyer, Curator and Researcher based in Hamburg; Postdoctoral Research Fellow at Jacobs University Bremen. At Jacobs University Bremen, Gronemeyer is part of the research project “Bauhaus Australia: Émigrés, Refugees and the Modernist Transformation of Education in Art, Architecture, and Design, 1930 to 1970.” She studied Art History, Philosophy, and Cultural Studies at Universidad de Valencia (Spain) and Witten/Herdecke University (Germany). She holds an M.F.A in Curating and a Ph.D. from Goldsmiths, University of London. Recent publications include The Curatorial Complex: Social Dimensions of Knowledge Production (Fink, 2018), and The Practices of Abstract Art: Between Anarchism and Appropriation (Cambridge Scholars, 2016, with Isabel Wünsche). More information about her research and curatorial practice can be found at www.wiebkegronemeyer.de



Dr. Adrian Sudhalter
Art Historian and Curator, New York

Paper Title: MoMA’s Margaret Miller (1912‒1994): Probing our Definition of Ambition and Success 

Dr. Adrian Sudhalter, Art Historian and Curator, New York. Sudhalter received her Ph.D. from the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University, in 2005 and has held curatorial positions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard Art Museums. Her exhibition, Dadaglobe Reconstructed, shown at the Kunsthaus Zürich and at The Museum of Modern Art in 2016-2017, was a finalist for the College Art Association’s Alfred H. Barr, Jr. Award for Museum Scholarship. Sudhalter has received grants from the DAAD, Dedalus, and Getty Foundations, and has been a fellow at the Centre allemand d'histoire de l'art in Paris, and at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. She is currently preparing a book on Johannes Baader’s extant collages and is working as a Research Curator for the Merrrill C. Berman Collection, for whom she is preparing a scholarly volume on the collection.

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