Minneapolis Institute of Art appoints Curator of Decorative Arts

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Minneapolis Institute of Art appoints Curator of Decorative Arts
Ghenete Zelleke. Photo: Clare Britt Photo.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN.- The Minneapolis Institute of Art today announced the appointment of Ghenete Zelleke as the new James Ford Bell Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture and head of the Department of Decorative Arts, Textiles & Sculpture. Zelleke, who will assume the role in August 2016, will lead one of Mia’s largest and most diverse curatorial departments. She will oversee the scholarship, display, and preservation of more than 18,000 works in various mediums from Europe and America, from the Middle Ages to the present. Zelleke fills the position vacated by Eike Schmidt, who left Mia last October to assume the directorship of the Uffizi Gallery.

Zelleke joins Mia from the Art Institute of Chicago, which she joined in 1991. Since 1998, she has served as the Samuel and M. Patricia Grober Curator in European Decorative Arts. During her tenue, she has curated numerous exhibitions, including: Charles Rennie Mackintosh, Eighteenth-Century French Vincennes-Sèvres Porcelain, Spiritual Expressions: Art for Private Contemplation and Public Celebration, and Arts and Crafts in Vienna: Furniture designed by Josef Hoffmann, among many others

“Ghenete is a talented and insightful curator, as well as a consummate storyteller, and we are thrilled that she will be sharing her expertise with Mia,” said Kaywin Feldman, Duncan and Nivan MacMillan Director and President. “Recently, the Museum has been rethinking the possibilities of interpretation both within and beyond our walls—from finding new ways to activate our period rooms to changing the way we write our labels. Ghenete’s vision to bring the decorative arts of centuries past to life for the contemporary visitor makes her a natural fit and an incredible asset to our curatorial team.”

In 2012, Zelleke was the curatorial lead on “LaunchPad,” a specially developed platform for the iPad to enhance visitor access and understanding of 50 works of art from the 17th through the 19th century in the European Decorative Arts galleries. From 2006 until 2009, she worked on the design and installation of the Art Institute’s new galleries devoted to European Decorative Arts, as well as the integration of objects into the primary galleries of European Paintings and Sculpture. "Ghenete is widely admired for her fine ‘eye’ and demanding standards for high artistic excellence. She added many stellar examples of porcelain, furniture, silver and glass to the collection during her time at the AIC,” said Matthew Welch, Deputy Director and Chief Curator at Mia. "We anticipate similarly news-worthy acquisitions in Minneapolis.”

Zelleke received an MA in the History of European Decorative Arts from Cooper-Hewitt Museum/Parsons School of Design. She received a BA in the History of Art from the University of Cambridge. Zelleke has published and lectured extensively in the US and abroad.

Mia’s decorative arts collection encompasses more than 18,000 works in all mediums from Europe and America, from the Middle Ages to the present. A particular strength of the collection is English, American and Continental silver, which includes a monumental eighteenth-century wine cistern by English Huguenot silversmith Paul de Lamerie and the most complete neoclassical tea service known by Paul Revere, Jr. Another strength is in modern design, including the Prairie School-style Purcell-Cutts House (1913), designed by William Gray Purcell and George Grant Elmslie. In addition, Mia houses one of the best collections of Prairie School material in the country, comprising nearly 500 objects dating from 1880 to 1940. In recent decades, the department has built up a significant collection of contemporary studio ceramics, glass, and wood. A current focus is design of the Scandinavian and Nordic countries.

The department’s textile collection has gained an international reputation for its spectacular individual pieces as well as its impressive holdings of European tapestries, early Italian laces, passementerie, Kashmir shawls, and Turkish embroideries. Textiles from the Jack Lenor Larsen company archive and the Norwest Modernism Collection have broadened the scope of the collection’s twentieth-century holdings, complementing its already strong collection of contemporary fiber art.

Sculpture from the Middle Ages to 1960 includes important works by Amedeo Modigliani, Sir Jacob Epstein, John Bernard Flannagan, Constantin Brancusi, Henri Matisse, Henry Moore, Raymond Duchamp-Villon and Alberto Giacometti.

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