August 27, 2003 by

J. Kirk Varnedoe


Categories: Artists, Education, Writers/Editors

kvarnedoe.jpgJ. Kirk Varnedoe, one of the most influential art curators in the world, died on Aug. 16 from colon cancer. He was 57.
Varnedoe graduated with a bachelor’s degree in art history from Williams College and a master’s from Stanford University. He received his doctorate at 26 when he turned in a catalog for a show he curated on Auguste Rodin as his dissertation.
While teaching at the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University in 1988, Varnedoe was hired as the chief curator of the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, a job that is considered to be one of the most important positions in the modern-art world. He was only 42 years old.
Varnedoe spent 14 years at MOMA, where he exhibited the work of Vincent Van Gogh, Paola Antonelli, Joshua Siegel, Jasper Johns and Jackson Pollack. He also published 18 books on art, including “Modern Contemporary: Art at MoMA Since 1980.”
In 2002, Varnedoe began teaching the history of art at Princeton University’s Institute for Advanced Study. This past spring, he served as the Andrew W. Mellon Lecturer in the Fine Arts at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C.
Varnedoe was married to sculptor Elyn Zimmerman.

5 Responses to J. Kirk Varnedoe

  1. Rene Beck

    I saw Kirk only twice on Charlie Rose and was deeply affected by his presence, as I am now deeply affected by his death. He is now part of the mystery he saw in art.

  2. Ricahrd Sinkoff

    I was deeply saddened to learn of the untimely death of Kirk Varnedoe. I had the great privilege to study under Mr. Varnedoe as a student of art history at Columbia College. I believe the course that Mr. Varnedoe taught was history of photography. He was a brilliant, rigorous, and insightful teacher and scholar. I am sure that his legacy will continue to inspire and illumine so many whose lives and minds he touched. I send my condolences to his wife and family and to the larger community of the arts.

  3. Carmen Maiocco

    I just heard the news and am overcome by it.
    I knew he was sick but thought he might be saved.
    A keen mind and articulate voice.
    Only 57.
    A profound loss.

  4. Kerry

    All we can know is what is between the sunrise and sunset of our lifespan. Mr. Varnedoe added immeasurably to the enrichment and compassion with which we might approach the art experience. Even a year and more beyond his passing, his absence brings an echo of grief.

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