Dieter Roelstraete, an internationally renowned curator of contemporary art, has been named the next curator of the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society.
In his new role, effective November 10, Roelstraete will oversee all aspects of the Neubauer Collegium Exhibitions Gallery, working with the University arts community as well as with arts organizations in the city of Chicago and around the world.
Roelstraete joins the Neubauer Collegium after serving on the curatorial team that organized documenta 14, the international art exhibition that ran this past spring and summer in Kassel, Germany, and Athens, Greece. Widely hailed as a significant statement about the relevance and aesthetic concerns of the contemporary art world, the show brought together work by 160 artists at more than 80 sites.
The move is a return to Chicago for Roelstraete. Prior to his work with documenta 14, he served as the Manilow Senior Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago from 2012 to 2015. During his time there, Roelstraete organized and co-organized a number of highly regarded shows, including The Way of the Shovel: Art as Archaeology (2015); The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music 1965 to Now (2015), which told the story of a radical group of jazz artists from the South Side of Chicago; and Kerry James Marshall: Mastry (2016), a retrospective of the acclaimed Chicago-based artist that traveled to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. From 2003 to 2011 Roelstraete was a curator at the Museum van Hedendaagse Kunst Antwerpen, where he organized large-scale group exhibitions as well as monographic shows.
“Dieter is one of the most creative and thoughtful curators at work today,” said Jonathan Lear, the Roman Family Director of the Neubauer Collegium. “His work exemplifies how artistic expression and humanistic research can meld together and support each other. I am looking forward to working with him, and I am eager to see how he’ll make use of the freedom our gallery affords.”
One of the Neubauer Collegium’s three key initiatives, alongside faculty-led collaborative research projects and a global visiting fellows program, the gallery presents both historical and contemporary art in support of the Neubauer Collegium’s mission to explore novel approaches to complex human questions. In its first two years of operation, the gallery has hosted 11 idea-driven exhibitions that reflect the productive interplay between visual arts practice and scholarly inquiry. Several shows have been curated as part of a campus-wide set of related exhibitions.
“After spending three years working on what is effectively the largest art exhibition in the world—a hugely complex and impossibly expansive affair—I am excited to start working in a much more concentrated, in-depth fashion. Curating in a beautiful, humanly sized space at the University of Chicago will both allow and require that,” Roelstraete said. “I am a long-standing advocate for the idea of art as a form of research and knowledge production, and I cannot think of a more welcoming home to further develop these intuitions in concert with the great minds that people the wilds of Hyde Park.”
In addition to joining the Neubauer Collegium, Roelstraete will co-teach a course this winter with acclaimed artist Assoc. Prof. William Pope.L. as Mellon Collaborative Fellow in Arts Practice and Scholarship at the Richard and Mary L. Gray Center for Arts and Inquiry. The course, titled “Art and Knowledge,” will extend their documenta 14 collaboration (also supported by the Gray Center) to explore the different types of knowledge art can produce. Roelstraete will pursue further teaching within the Department of Art History in the Humanities Division starting in the 2018-2019 academic year.
“I couldn’t be more thrilled by Dieter’s appointment. He joins an extraordinary group of internationally known curators working across the arts institutions at the University of Chicago,” said Alison Gass, the Dana Feitler Director of the Smart Museum of Art. “This hire will benefit UChicago Arts and further advance the University’s commitment to arts scholarship and practice and curatorial excellence.”
The exhibitions program at the Neubauer Collegium will continue to play a vital role in advancing UChicago Arts’ commitment to visual arts exhibition alongside colleagues at the Arts and Public Life's Arts Incubator, Booth School of Business’ Contemporary Art Collection, the University Library’s Special Collections Research Center, Logan Center Exhibitions, the Oriental Institute, the Renaissance Society, and the Smart Museum of Art.
Roelstraete succeeds Jacob Proctor, the Neubauer Collegium’s inaugural curator, who is pursuing international opportunities from his new home base in New York City. “The gallery as it stands today is very much a reflection of Jacob’s extraordinary talent and vision,” Lear said. “He has given us a remarkable foundation on which Dieter can build.”
The Neubauer Collegium’s current exhibition, Terence Gower’s Havana Case Study, runs through Jan. 26. Roelstraete is conducting research for his first exhibition as curator, tentatively scheduled to open next spring.