Cultural Comings and Goings: The Istanbul Biennial’s Newest Curator and More

Eric Ferring, Iwona Blazwick and Diane Jean-Mary are among the insiders stepping into new roles.

The only constant in the art world is change, whether that means artwork changing hands, pieces breaking auction records or professionals moving from one institution to another. What follows are some of the most notable role changes recently announced across the arts and culture sphere.

Sarah Victoria Turner named director of Yale’s Paul Mellon Centre

A nine-year veteran of Yale’s Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art (sister institution to the Yale Center for British Art), Turner first served as its assistant director for research before stepping into the role of deputy director and then becoming acting director in March. Upon accepting the director position, she became the first woman to lead the Centre since its founding in 1970. “I am delighted to announce the appointment of Sarah Victoria Turner,” said Susan Gibbons, vice provost for collections and scholarly communication at Yale and ex-officio chief executive of the Paul Mellon Centre, in a statement. “Her energy and passion for collaboration as a scholar and curator, and her strong leadership skills, make her an exceptional appointee.”

A widely published art historian and seasoned curator, Turner’s past work has focused on the tangled cultural relationships between Britain and South Asia. She has overseen several programs and collaborative projects in her work with the Centre, including establishing the Write on Art competition with Art UK and co-hosting the “Sculpting Lives” podcast. Turner, who studied history of art at Pembroke College, Cambridge, is also editor-in-chief of the British Art Studies journal. “As director, I will be a vocal champion for the value of art and architectural history and research on visual culture more broadly in helping us navigate some of the most complex questions of our time,” she said in a statement.

Maurya Kerr joins ODC Theater in a new fixed-term Resident Curator role

audition_055_pc.jpg Alonzo King watched a brief portion of the audition with evaluator Maurya Kerr. Auditions were held for dancers aged 13-21 for Alonzo King's Lines Ballet Summer Pre-Professional Program on 4/16/05 in San Francisco, CA. PAUL CH
Alonzo King and Maurya Kerr. San Francisco Chronicle via Gett

A former ODC Theater Resident Artist, Kerr will hold the position, in which she’ll “expand the theater’s perspectives while facilitating access for artists and community members,” through the end of 2024. “I am thrilled to have the opportunity to work side by side with Maurya over the next year and a half,” said ODC Theater Creative Director Chloë L. Zimberg in a statement. “She will take on a larger set of responsibilities, reviewing artist inquiries on a rolling basis, and she will join the Rentals Discount Initiative curatorial panel, helping to bridge the gap between our presented and rental programs.”

Kerr, who holds an MFA in dance from Hollins University in Virginia, is also the artistic director of contemporary dance company tinypistol, a freelance choreographer, a dancer, a filmmaker and a critically acclaimed poet. In 2022, she was the recipient of the Tom Howard/Margaret Reid Poetry Prize, and she has been previously nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her first book, MUTTOLOGY, will be released by Harbor Editions this fall.

Eric Ferring steps up as executive director of Collaborative Arts Institute of Chicago

Ferring, a prodigious opera talent, was appointed following a nationwide search and will lead the organization in its efforts to position Chicago as a destination for art song and vocal chamber music repertoire. His new responsibilities include curating performances and overseeing educational program development. “Joining CAIC in continuing their mission of being a world-class home for the performance and study of this repertoire, an incubator of new song and chamber works, and engaging in educational outreach into the Chicagoland community is a significant endeavor, and one I take on with much care, admiration and joy,” Ferring said in a statement.

Ferring, who graduated from Drake University with his Bachelor of Music in Vocal Performance before earning a Master of Music in Opera Performance from The Boston Conservatory, is a talented and celebrated tenor. His performance credits include productions at the Metropolitan Opera, Lyric Opera of Chicago, Paris Opera and Santa Fe Opera. Previously, Ferring was a member of the Ryan Opera Center Ensemble. He has won top prizes at competitions like the George London Foundation for Singers, Glyndebourne Opera Cup, Gerda Lissner Foundation International Voice Competition, National Society of Arts and Letters and Metropolitan Opera Laffont Competition.

Iwona Blazwick announced as curator of the 18th Istanbul Biennial

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Iwona Blazwick. Dave Benett/Getty Images for Whi

Blazwick, a seasoned curator, writer and art historian, will oversee next year’s Istanbul Biennial, organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), which runs from September 14 through November. “We are delighted that Iwona Blazwick has accepted our invitation to curate the 18th Istanbul Biennial,” said Görgün Taner, General Director of IKSV, in a statement. “Her depth of experience and her long association with the Biennial make her an ideal choice to lead the team for 2024.”

A founding editor of Contemporary Artists Monographs and Themes and Movements in Art at Phaidon Press and Trustee of Harewood House, Blazwick is currently a curator for the Royal Commission’s Arts AlUla project in Saudi Arabia. Previously, she was Director of the Whitechapel Gallery, London and also held roles at Tate Modern and London’s ICA. In 2007, she was honored for services to art and has been recognised as an Officier des Arts et Lettres by France and Officer of the Star of Italy.

Diane Jean-Mary appointed executive director of The Black Trustees Alliance for Art Museums

As executive director, Jean-Mary will oversee BTA’s strategic efforts and planning, organizational development and partnership development with an eye toward building and activating the Black trustee community and amplifying Black voices in the cultural landscape. “I am thrilled to join Black Trustee Alliance at such a pivotal moment of growth, and I’m energized by this opportunity to inspire, equip, and mobilize our member base of trustees to create change within and beyond their institutions,” said Jean-Mary, who will step into the role on August 8, in a statement. “BTA will continue the vital work of driving awareness and actionability for the betterment of Black artists, cultural workers, community, and the field at large.”

A former Principal Strategy Consultant and Partner and Chief Strategy Officer at arts consultancy LaPlaca Cohen, Jean-Mary, who holds a BA from Columbia University, and certificates in Applied Positive Psychology and International Business Management from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University, has over a decade of experience leading cultural organizations. She is also co-author of a data study with Museums Moving Forward (MMF) focused on workplace equity in US art museums and spearheaded the Culture Track consumer research platform. “Diane is that rare talent who can lead and shape the narrative at this important moment of debate on racial and social representation within the cultural world,” added Raymond J. McGuire, BTA co-chair.

The Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art announced Zasha Colah as curator of the 13th edition

Zasha Colah. Photo: M. Ben Hamouda

Colah, a curator and writer whose work is primarily focused on art under oppression, will curate the Berlin Biennale, which takes place every two years, in 2025. She will be responsible for gathering artists, theorists and practitioners from across disciplines for the culturally progressive show. In a statement, KW Institute for Contemporary Art said that Colah’s “work considers a range of cultural practices as an unspoken infrastructure of acts and channels of counter-expression in disobedient terrains that confound militarization and earthly extraction.”

Based in Turin, Colah was part of the curatorial team of the 2nd Yinchuan Biennale, has served as curator of Indian Modern Art at JNAF/CSMVS Museum and curator of public programs at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Mumbai, was co-curator of the 3rd Pune Biennale and is a co-founder of the Clark House Initiative artist/curator collaborative. Today, she is the artistic director of Ar/Ge Kunst, co-developing programming with Francesca Verga; a lecturer in Curatorial Studies at Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti in Milan; and on the board of the Institute of Contemporary Art Indian Ocean in Mauritius.

Cultural Comings and Goings: The Istanbul Biennial’s Newest Curator and More