Visiting Lecture: Bruce Ferguson

The Visiting Lecture Series brings internationally renowned contemporary art curators, directors, and arts professionals from around the globe to Austin to present a free public lecture and conduct studio visits with selected area-based artists.

This lecture, accompanied by a plethora of images, takes as its starting point the assumption that works of art can be symptomatic of larger cultural and political issues without necessarily using them as their content. Bruce W. Ferguson, recently Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the American University in Cairo, will discuss in detail the present-day issues of Egypt through an investigation of works by four artists in the two years prior to the now-famous eighteen days of revolution begun in January 2011.

Ferguson shows how the four artists were already a compact measure of the upcoming discontents and how these artworks had values that coincided with values of an earlier modernist literature in Egypt, as well as the values of the years of protests that preceded the revolution. Ferguson does not overvalue the works of art as predictive or as the cause of the uprisings but carefully shows how the works of art can be seen to be investigative and analytical in advance, like a symbolic social diagnosis of a political disease. The last artist Ferguson explores produced work both before and after the revolution and acts as a hinge to the newer iterative work now being produced, mostly on the streets of Egyptian cities and towns in the form of graffiti.

About Bruce Ferguson

Bruce W. Ferguson has been an art curator, critic, and academic administrator and has extensive management experience in both arts and academic organizations. At present, he is the vice chairman of Louise Blouin Media, whose publications include Art + Auction and Modern Painters. In 2013, Ferguson was the Dean of the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the American University in Cairo, Egypt. He served as the Dean of the School of Arts at Columbia University as well as President and Executive Director of the New York Academy of Art. He has curated exhibitions for institutions from the Louisiana Museum in Copenhagen to the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. He also organized exhibitions within the international biennales of São Paulo, Sydney, Venice, and Istanbul. Ferguson was the founding director and curator of SITE Santa Fe, where he articulated a vision for an international art biennial that now has a successful fifteen-year history and is central to the city’s identity.

Ferguson’s academic research centers on the subject of exhibition theory and practice. An early co-edited anthology, Thinking About Exhibitions, was seminal in opening the field of curatorial studies. Ferguson’s recent work has been focused on international biennales, and a co-written essay, “Discursive Exhibitions,” is included in a Biennale Knowledge book published in Bergen, Norway, 2011.

He received his BA in Art History from the University of Saskatchewan and his MA in Communications from McGill University in Montreal. He has an honorary doctorate from the Kansas City Art Institute.