students at art exhibition
08 Feb 2022

Portals into Curating 

Last Fall semester, students of CYA’s The Art and Craft of Curating, had the unique opportunity to witness PORTALS – a prolific exhibition of monumental proportions that celebrates the Old Public Tobacco Factory, currently the historical archive of the Library of the Greek Parliament. With a focus on works from the Daskalopoulos collection as well as new commissions, this NEON Foundation initiative invites the visitor to contemplate the crossroads on which we stand in a post-pandemic world: it’s time for a change! 

From an educational viewpoint in the context of this Curating Contemporary Art course, multiple parameters were explored: the re-activation of a historical space for a contemporary art show; the political aspect of contemporary art; a private Foundation for contemporary art and its work; contemporary art shows inspired by seminal authors and their work.

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The Art and Craft of Curating suggests an inquiry into the world of curating art in the 21st century. The course combines theory and history of curating with hands-on experience setting up an art show with the instructor’s guidance. The course unravels the mechanisms through which curators make exhibitions happen. Emphasis is placed on contemporary art and some of the things explored are the history of museums and art institutions; theories of curating; the relationship between curator and artist; the premise of the white cube vs. the re-activation of historical spaces; curator-as-artist/ artist-as-curator.  Students learn first-hand how to organize an exhibition, covering all aspects, from coming up with a concept, to more practical issues, such as fundraising, promotion, liaising with artists and galleries, insurance, budget, installing art, and all constituent elements of a successful show.

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Here’s what Fall ‘21 students had to say about the class:

I chose this class because I am interested in museums and galleries, plus you do not often see curating classes offered in undergraduate programs. The curriculum offered a diverse overview of the curating process and we were able to see firsthand different approaches to galleries. I loved visiting all the shows throughout the semester for many reasons. Firstly, we were exposed to an abundance of contemporary art from international and local artists, both in galleries and in class. We were also able to speak with gallery runners about their specific space, how they operate, and their relationship with the artists. Finally, the visits introduced us to parts of Athens we might not have seen otherwise, as well as the chance to see a gallery on Hydra! I enjoyed this class immensely and I have learned so much. What an amazingly unique experience! 

Christina Cozad, CYA Fall ‘21 student

When I first saw that this class was being offered I was super curious. I had never seen a class specifically about curating; I have taken some art history and studio classes but had never been asked to think about the curatorial process. In this class, we talked about old and new contemporary artists, what the curatorial refers to, and how to analyze an exhibit through a curatorial lens. I had a lot of fun going to all the different exhibits with my class. I probably wouldn’t have gone to them if it wasn’t for this class so I am super appreciative of the opportunity. I loved this class and the discussions we had in class so much. The skills and curatorial mindset is definitely something I will take with me in future art classes. 

Zoe Mitchell, CYA Fall ‘21 student

This course is a unique way to look at Greece through the lens of contemporary Greek artists. The art shows and exhibitions that Dr. Hadji takes us to have a variety of topics and show the diversity that can be seen in the contemporary art world, within Greece but then also on a more global level. Rather than just seeing art through an average eye, you start to develop an eye for curating. I found that when I started to visits other museums for other classes, I started to catch myself thinking about curating the space and how it was curated. Not only did we see a lot, but we also got to see different parts of Athens, and even Greece with our Hydra trip, which was a fun and safe way to explore Athens.

Abbey Miller, CYA Fall ‘21 student

Portals into Curating 

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Dr. Athena Hadji, PhD (U of California Berkeley) is an academic, curator, and author. She holds a Ph.D. in archaeology, anthropology, and art history from the University of California Berkeley. Her work encompasses a wide range of theoretical approaches and media. To read more about her background and work, please visit her profile on the CYA website.

Dr. Hadji’s courses at CYA: