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“Strict Separation,” “Transparency”: My Q&A with John Elderfield on Princeton/Gagosian Loyalties

John Elderfield, chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, who on Feb. 1 will become distinguished curator and lecturer at the Princeton University Art Museum, responds to Fielding Elderfield: Will Princeton’s Catch Remain Gagosian’s Designated Hitter?.

James Christen Steward, director, Princeton University Art Museum

James Christen Steward, director, Princeton University Art Museum

The following is my response to your email of Dec. 26, which arrived while I was away for the holiday and out-of-touch with email. While I wish that you had waited for my reply before posting, I am answering your questions now and appreciate that you are posting them in a full and unedited form, without any interspersed commentary.

Rosenbaum: Will you continue as consultant for Gagosian Gallery when you start at Princeton?
Elderfield: Yes, I will continue as a consultant, curating selected exhibitions.

Rosenbaum: What is the subject of “In the Studio” [which Elderfield is currently curating for Gagosian] and what artists will be included?
Elderfield: “In the Studio” will be a display of paintings and photographs of artists’ studios. Gagosian Gallery will be issuing a press release with fuller details after it reopens in the New Year.

Rosenbaum: Are there any other Gagosian projects that you are working on?
Elderfield: Yes; but these are not ready to be announced.

Rosenbaum: Do you see any possible conflicts of interest in working for a commercial gallery while working for a nonprofit museum and university? If not, why not? If so, how will you and Princeton handle that?

Elderfield: Princeton and I have, of course, discussed this matter at length, and are satisfied that the transparency of my consultancy arrangements, and their strict separation from what I shall be doing at Princeton, will avoid conflicts of interest, potential and perceived.

Please note that these kinds of arrangements are not uncommon. Since some commercial galleries now present exhibitions of the ambition and breadth traditionally associated with museums, it is not unusual for people with academic appointments (including some who curate exhibitions at their own institutions) also to curate or write for the catalogues of exhibitions at commercial galleries. And many museums also allow their curators to write for such catalogues, if they have particular expertise in the subjects that they address.

Rosenbaum: Are you still affiliated with Artsy [an online site that currently posts over 135,000 works available for sale from international galleries, museums, and institutions]? If so, what is the nature of your affilation? Will this continue when you’re with Princeton?
Elderfield: I am an advisor to Artsy, which means that they periodically ask my advice; and on occasion invite me to participate in such projects as the recent Artsy/Rauschenberg Foundation competition for students to curate an exhibition, for which I served as one of the jurors.

Rosenbaum: Can you give me any information about what courses you will be teaching and what exhibitions you may be mounting at Princeton?
Elderfield: This is still under discussion. What is definite is that I shall deliver a small number of lectures in the spring semester, and teach a seminar in the fall semester. Their subjects have not as yet been finalized.

an ArtsJournal blog