Sotheby’s Institute of Art’s Graduate Shows Introduce the Next Generation of Curators

Held between Sotheby's Institute of Art and the Blanc art space, the exhibitions are a platform for burgeoning curators to execute their vision.

Takashi Murakami, Jellyfish Eyes (black I) (2004). Courtesy of Sotheby's Institute.

Presented by Sotheby’s Institute of Art, two exhibitions open this month and a third next month highlighting the work of M.A. students who represent the emerging curatorial talent in the field. With a program dedicated to equipping students with both the academic and professional skills and knowledge, the student-led shows act as a keystone of the program—as well as a launchpad for future endeavors.

Inside a white room gallery space with a large window at the end and people milling about inside, the site of exhibitions for Sotheby's Institute of Art.

Inside the Blanc Art Space, New York. Courtesy of Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

Speaking of the program’s philosophy and approach, faculty member Hongzheng Han said, “One major challenge emerging curators face, especially those residing in metropolitan areas like New York, is securing exhibition spaces. While I firmly believe that a lack of space should never hinder a true curator’s ability to realize their visions—look at Hans Ulrich Obrist, who launched his influential curatorial career by mounting exhibitions in his kitchen back in 1991 before becoming one of the most renowned names in the art world—finding a venue capable of housing a substantial body of work and garnering notable media attention remains a formidable obstacle for young curators. Hence, in designing my Curating Contemporary Art course at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, I have made it a priority to ensure that my students graduate with two fully realized exhibitions on their resumes: one at the SIA and another at the Blanc, one of New York’s leading commercial art spaces.”

A photograph of a grove of sub-tropical trees, included in a show at Sotheby's Institute of Art.

Emma Howard, Honolua Bay (2022). Courtesy of Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

The first of these exhibitions opened April 18 at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, titled “Persona: The Art of Self-Expression,” and will be on view through April 24, 2024. Curated by Almog Shimer, Armin Feller, Krystal Ha, and Tahlia Sisney, the show brings together both painting and sculpture to create an immersive experience that explores the many facets of human identity. While each work invites viewers to individually reflect on their own ideas around self, taken together the exhibition presents opportunities to consider existence from a macro perspective, and how individuals can shape their own narratives.

Two monochrome square paintings in bright red with a floral pattern and series of numbers in lines in an even brighter red, included in show for Sotheby's Institute of Art.

Fei Li, Prelude (2024). Courtesy of Sotheby’s Institute of Art.

Opening on April 25 and on view through May 3, the second exhibition, “Destiny vs. Will: Navigating the Maze of Modern Existence,” is curated by Emma Howard, Ivy Song, and Milan Zou, and staged at Sotheby’s Institute of Art as well. The shows thematic core is within the perennial question of where individual agency ends and external forces begin—a boundary that manifests and nearly every aspect of life. Investigated through five curated sections, spirituality, sociology, psyche, vulnerability, and data, visitors’ journey through the materially diverse works to explore the breadth and scope of the complexities of lived experience.

Rounding out the trio of shows is “7,” running from May 8 through May 15, 2024 at the Blanc art space in Manhattan. The title of the show reflects the number of curatorial voices involved, drawn from participants of the preceding two shows, and marks the culmination of the Sotheby’s Institute of Art student group exhibitions.

Each respective show offers a glimpse into the participating student curator’s vision, and an unmissable opportunity to experience the work of the most recent class of curators.

Learn more about Sotheby’s Institute of Art Master’s Programs here.

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