The Institute of Contemporary Art has chosen a new chief curator, Eva Respini , currently the curator in the Department of Photography at The Museum of Modern Art . Respini, who grew up in Europe and has worked with artists from the Middle East, hopes to bring a more global outlook to the ICA.
The museum chose her after an international search led to four finalists. She is replacing Helen Molesworth, the museum’s former chief curator, who left for a job as chief curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. Molesworth had held the position for about four years. Respini (whose first name is pronounced “Ava”) will start at the ICA in March.
“I saw in Eva somebody who is really a proponent [of] and thrives in an interdisciplinary environment,” said Jill Medvedow, the ICA director. “And that’s one of the hallmarks of the ICA. Great contemporary art is as likely to be seen on a stage as in a gallery or in a video or a film.”
Medvedow said Respini’s familiarity with international artists, especially those from the Middle East, was appealing. Up to now, the ICA’s international focus has largely been on Latin America. “I see her complementing our strengths with new strengths,” Medvedow said.
Respini, 38, is currently working on a major survey of the work of Walid Raad, a Lebanese media artist who is well known in Europe but less so in the US, at MoMA. The exhibit of Raad’s work will appear in fall 2015. Last year at MoMA, Respini curated a show of works by another Lebanese artist, Akram Zaatari , who explores image-making.
“There’s a lot of activity in the Middle East right now for contemporary art,” Respini said. “There’s new infrastructure and platforms for contemporary art.” The newest, and largest, Guggenheim will be built in Abu Dhabi. The ninth Dubai art fair, Art Dubai, will take place in March.
“One of the things I’m interested in thinking about is how to bring in a more global perspective in the ICA,” Respini said. “We live in such a small world.”
Respini has lived in the US for nearly two decades but grew up in Europe, the daughter of an Italian father and Norwegian mother. She feels at home in Switzerland, where her parents now live and where she attended high school. As a child, she lived in Italy, Croatia (then Yugoslavia), and France.
Respini has spent most of her career at MoMA, working her way up from curatorial assistant. One of her best known exhibits was a 2012 retrospective of the photographer Cindy Sherman, a widely recognized contemporary artist and MacArthur fellow who often alters her appearance to pose as her own model. For MoMA, Respini has also curated shows featuring the artists Klara Liden, Anne Collier, Leslie Hewitt, and Robert Heinecken.
She is also interested in exploring digital art at the ICA, especially given Boston’s growing prominence as a nexus of technology. “It could be anything from things that live primarily online to things that are made using digital technology: a video, a photograph, a JPEG, a GIF,” she said.
Respini said she was drawn to Boston by the “dynamic” Fan Pier building, where the ICA moved in 2006, as well as by recent changes in the contemporary art world in Boston and Cambridge. The MFA added a modern art wing three years ago, the Harvard Art Museums reopened last month after extensive renovation and expansion, and the MIT’s List Visual Arts Center has assembled a new team.
In addition to her curatorial work, Respini has been a visiting critic at the School of Visual Arts at Columbia University and the School of Art at Yale University. She has also written about art, and coauthored an upcoming book, “Photography at MoMA: 1960 to Today,” due in 2015.
“She also brings a lot of experience in collecting and publishing, as we look to build our nascent collection,” Medvedow said. Respini now will be looking for a place to live in the Boston area with her husband and 4-year-old daughter.Kathleen Burge can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KathleenBurge.