The Kitchen Brings in Curator Robyn Farrell as It Undergoes Change

Farrell will help the organization "reimagine" itself in light of its 50th anniversary and the renovation of its Chelsea home.

The Kitchen, a historic New York institution known for its avant-garde and experimental shows, will soon have a new curator in its ranks. Robyn Farrell is leaving her current position at the Art Institute of Chicago to join the arts nonprofit in August as senior curator, as announced by The Kitchen yesterday (July 18).

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Woman wearing black stands in front of black and white wall
Robyn Farrell will take on the new position later this summer. Clare Britt

After joining the Art Institute of Chicago’s Department of Modern and Contemporary Art in 2013, Farrell curated exhibitions like its 2021 Barbara Kruger show THINKING OF YOU. I MEAN ME. I MEAN YOU. She is an internationally recognized scholar of the work of German filmmaker Gerry Schum, according to The Kitchen, and is primarily interested in conceptual art, time-based art and the history of film and video exhibitions and distributions.

These research interests will tie in perfectly at The Kitchen, one of the first U.S. institutions to embrace video and performance as art mediums. In a statement, Farrell said she is looking forward to advancing the institution’s “groundbreaking program and vital mission that supports urgent contemporary voices, risk-taking experimentation, and impactful and inclusive exhibitions, live events, and publications.”

Farrell will be responsible for expanding The Kitchen’s programming and strategic vision, as the institution reimagines itself under the helm of executive director Legacy Russell and in light of its recent 50th anniversary. Russell, a sought-after curator known for her successful 2020 book Glitch Feminism: A Manifesto and former positions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art and the Brooklyn Museum, took over the cultural nonprofit in September of 2021.

Past shows have included the Talking Heads, Robert Mapplethorpe and Cindy Sherman

That same year, The Kitchen announced its plans to renovate its building in Chelsea, where the institution has been housed since 1987, as part of a capital campaign supporting its next 50 years of operation. In 2022, the nonprofit temporarily moved into West Village’s Westbeth, which also houses the New School for Drama and the Martha Graham Dance Company and is where Farrell will be working until The Kitchen’s two-year renovations are finished. Artists and musicians like the Beastie Boys, Philip Glass, Simone Leigh, Robert Mapplethorpe, Sarah Michelson, Cindy Sherman and the Talking Heads are among the many who have performed and shown at the New York art world staple over the years.

Considering its recent anniversary and the overhauling of its space, The Kitchen will transform itself “to best serve the next generation of the avant-garde,” according to the organization. Founded in 1971 by video artists Woody and Steina Vasulka in the former kitchen of the Mercer Arts Center, the institution has often adapted its programming throughout the years, in addition to occasionally changing its name and location.

In the 1970s and 1980s, The Kitchen expanded its programming from music, video and performance to exhibitions and broadcasts and began building its collection, with a focus on education and outreach throughout the 1990s. In 2005, its curatorial structure underwent a shakeup, with curators organizing programs across all disciplines instead of in a single assigned one specific area. And since 2021, The Kitchen has broadened its partnerships with external organizations like Queenslab, where the organization hosted 10 artist residencies, and launched The Kitchen OnScreen, a platform for digital programming created during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Kitchen Brings in Curator Robyn Farrell as It Undergoes Change