Renowned curator Marta Kuzma named dean of Yale School of Art

Marta Kuzma, vice chancellor and rector of the Royal Institute of Art in Stockholm, Sweden, will be the next dean of the Yale School of Art, announced President Peter Salovey Feb. 9 in a message to the Yale community.

Kuzma will be the first woman to lead the School of Art, which opened in 1869 as the nation’s first art school connected with an institution of higher learning. She was chosen after an international search that drew interest from candidates representing a wide variety of perspectives and communities in art and design, said Salovey.

“Marta is an independent and creative thinker with a track record of making deep connections to students and faculty. I am confident that she will develop a distinctive vision for the Yale School of Art,” said Salovey. “She has an appreciation for developing ‘courageous’ students, and recognizes the importance of new sensibilities and new contexts for the presentation of artists and art.”

Kuzma is keenly aware of the current paradigm shifts in art and design practices, said Salovey, noting that she believes an art institution should be “creative in character, visionary in formulation, critical in structure and acumen, generous in terms of community building, and collaborative with those who constitute the institution as a whole — its students, professors, and staff.”

With more than 25 years of experience in leading international institutions of contemporary art as a curator, writer, and academic, Kuzma brings to Yale a deep knowledge of contemporary art, artists, and the role of art in broader social change.

Since September 2014, Kuzma has been head of the Royal Institute of Art, Sweden’s leading school of undergraduate and post-graduate study in visual art and architecture.

“Marta Kuzma is a visionary leader,” said Berit Svedberg, chair of the board for the Royal Institute of Art. “She has created an educational environment at the Royal Institute of Art that offers students broad and deep possibilities to develop as artists. As rector, she has consistently focused on the students' best interests. To promote the quality of their education has been Marta's top priority and guiding aim for the process of change at the school.”

During her tenure at the institute, she was asked by Sweden’s Ministry of Higher Education to further the school’s integration into an international context, to engage more vigorously in research and education, and to open the institution to a more diverse public participation. Although Kuzma’s commitment and ability to reanimate and reshape institutions to keep pace with changes in the field of art have been met with resistance at times, Svedberg noted, many faculty and students welcomed the new direction.

“I regret that Marta Kuzma will not continue to lead the Royal Institute of Art into the future,” Svedberg said. “I am at the same time convinced that she will lead the Yale School of Art with great engagement and creativity, and I wish her the very best there.”

Previously, Kuzma served for eight years as director of the Office for Contemporary Art Norway, where she established an internationally recognized, research-based program of exhibitions, lectures, seminars, and projects. Kuzma was the founding director of the Soros Center for Contemporary Art in Kiev, Ukraine; served as artistic director of the Washington Project for the Arts, in Washington, D.C.; and as head of the international exhibitions program at International Center of Photography in New York City.  Kuzma has extensive experience curating high-level, international exhibitions.

She is a visiting professor in art theory at the Istituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia in Venice, Italy and at Universita Bocconi in Milan, Italy.

Born in New Jersey, she holds a B.A. from Barnard College and an M.A. in aesthetics and art theory from the Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy at Middlesex University, London.

Kuzma will succeed Robert Storr, dean of the School of Art since 2006.

“Dean Storr has been an exemplary leader. During his time as dean, he has hired new faculty, overseen the upgrading of facilities, and brought the school into even greater international prominence,” said Salovey.  “I am very grateful for his wisdom and hard work, and I am delighted that after a well-deserved sabbatical next year, he will return to Yale to serve as a member of the School’s faculty.”

Sheila Levrant de Bretteville, director of graduate studies in graphic design at the Yale School of Art, chaired the search committee.

“We are very excited to have Marta Kuzma be our dean following the exceptional leadership of Rob Storr,” Levrant de Bretteville said. “The committee unanimously agreed that Marta was a great listener and leader, who will work collaboratively with faculty and the university leadership to bring the School of Art and its students to even higher levels of achievement.”