princeton art john elderfield

princeton art john elderfieldPhoto: John Elderfield   Credit: Scott Rudd
Celebrated art historian will serve as the first Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Distinguished Curator and Lecturer, starting Feb. 1, 2015

PRINCETON, N.J. – James Steward, director of the Princeton University Art Museum, today announced the appointment of John Elderfield, chief curator emeritus of painting and sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, as the first Allen R. Adler, Class of 1967, Distinguished Curator and Lecturer on Feb. 1, 2015.

      This new curatorship was made possible by a $4.5 million gift from Allen Adler, a member of Princeton’s Class of 1967, and his wife, Frances Beatty Adler. The gift, bestowed in 2012, facilitated the endowed curatorship and an accompanying program fund at the Princeton University Art Museum.


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The Adler Distinguished Curatorship will increase the Museum’s leadership in European art from the medieval to modern periods – already a significant strength – as well as further enrich the tradition of object-based study at Princeton, including preparing undergraduates and graduates for careers in museums and the academy. Elderfield will begin his tenure at Princeton by offering a series of public lectures in the spring and is expected to teach his first course in European modern art in the fall of 2015.

       “I am delighted to welcome John Elderfield to Princeton’s curatorial team and look forward to working closely with him to enhance our program in the art of the 19th and 20th centuries,” notes Museum Director James Steward. “I cannot imagine anyone who would better embody the endowment’s commitment to bringing a curator of distinguished achievement to our campus. We are profoundly grateful to Allen and Frances for their generosity and vision.”

       “With the arrival of John Elderfield at Princeton, both the Art Museum and our Department of Art & Archaeology build on a shared tradition of art historical leadership and are poised to achieve yet greater impact for our students and for scholars around the world,” said Christopher L. Eisgruber, 20th president of Princeton University.

       “The Department of Art & Archaeology and the Art Museum have a longstanding commitment to collaboration, dating to the early 1880s, and to fostering the successful integration of academic and museum scholarship,” according to Department Chair Michael Koortbojian, who is also Moses Taylor Pyne Professor of Art and Archaeology. “We are very pleased to have John Elderfield join our faculty and look forward to his sharing with our students his great breadth of experience in the worlds of museums, curatorship and scholarship.”

       Born in Yorkshire, England, Elderfield studied fine art at the University of Leeds and received his Ph.D. from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, in 1975. That same year, he joined The Museum of Modern Art, New York (MoMA), as curator of painting and sculpture. Over more than thirty years, he held a variety of positions at MoMA, including director of the Department of Drawings, chief curator-at-large and the Marie-Josée and Henry Kravis Chief Curator of Painting and Sculpture, in which position he reinstalled the museum’s painting and sculpture collection in 2004 in its newly rebuilt premises.

       While at MoMA, and following his retirement from the Museum in 2008, Elderfield curated or co-curated many acclaimed exhibitions, including The Modern Drawing (1983), Kurt Schwitters (1985), Henri Matisse: A Retrospective (1992), Bonnard (1998), Matisse Picasso (2002), Manet and the Execution of Maximilian (2006), Martin Puryear (2007), Matisse: Radical Invention (2010) and de Kooning: A Retrospective (2011).

       Since 2012, Elderfield has been an independent curator and art historian, as well as a consultant to the Gagosian Gallery, where he has curated exhibitions including Painted on 21st Street: Helen Frankenthaler from 1950 to 1959 (2013) and the upcoming In the Studio, an exploration of paintings of artists’ studios from the 18th through the 20th centuries (opening February 2015). Also forthcoming is Paul Cézanne: Portraits, which will debut at the Musée d’Orsay, Paris, in 2017 before travelling to the National Portrait Gallery, London, and the National Gallery of Art, Washington, District of Columbia.

       In addition to his notable curatorial career, Elderfield has written 24 books and catalogues, and nearly 100 scholarly articles. Selected awards include the Mitchell Prize in Twentieth-Century Art for Kurt Schwitters (1986), Time magazine’s “100 most influential people of the year” (2005) and the Officier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French Government (2006). He has also been a fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Foundation (1972), a visiting fellow at the Getty Research Institute (2001) and an associate fellow of the American Academy in Rome (2006).

About the Princeton University Art Museum

With a collecting history that extends back to the 1750s, the Princeton University Art Museum is one of the leading university art museums in the country, with collections that have grown to include over 92,000 works of art ranging from ancient to contemporary art and spanning the globe.

Committed to advancing Princeton’s teaching and research missions, the Art Museum also serves as a gateway to the University for visitors from around the world. Intimate in scale yet expansive in scope, the Museum offers a respite from the rush of daily life, a revitalizing experience of extraordinary works of art and an opportunity to delve deeply into the study of art and culture.

The Princeton University Art Museum is located at the heart of the Princeton campus, a short walk from the shops and restaurants of Nassau Street. Admission is free. Museum hours are Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.; Thursday 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.; and Sunday 1 to 5 p.m. The Museum is closed Mondays and major holidays.

About Allen R. Adler and Frances Beatty Adler

The Adlers are longstanding patrons of the arts, with a particular interest in European and American art ranging from Renaissance sculpture to contemporary photography. Allen Adler, president of Allen Adler Enterprises in New York, serves on the 20-member Advisory Council of the Princeton University Art Museum. He is a cum laude graduate of Princeton, where he majored in the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and played on Princeton’s nationally ranked basketball teams of 1965 and 1967. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar, the school’s top academic honor. His long history of service to Princeton includes ten years as president of his class. He is a trustee of Rockefeller University and the Simon Wiesenthal Center and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Frances Beatty Adler is president of Richard Feigen and Co. in New York. A graduate of Vassar College, she holds a Ph.D. in art history from Columbia University and is co-chair of the board of The Drawing Center in Manhattan.

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Allan Dean

Allan Dean is editor, publisher, and founder of the Atlantic Highlands Herald. Published since 1999 and selected in 2000 by the Borough of Atlantic Highlands as one of their official newspapers, making...