Renaissance Society names Solveig Øvstebø first new executive director in nearly 40 years

Greg Cameron, president of the board of The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, an internationally renowned contemporary art museum, today announced the appointment of Solveig Øvstebø (‘Săl-vēg ōvst-‘ē-bō) as the organization’s first new executive director in nearly 40 years.

Øvstebø is currently the director of Bergen Kunsthall, a premier avant-garde contemporary art space in her native Norway. She will join The Renaissance Society in June 2013. Until that time, Susanne Ghez will continue to serve as executive director, a position she has held since 1974. 

“The Renaissance Society has built a reputation for being artist-focused and identifying new art that is conceptually rigorous and formally strong,” said Cameron. “Solveig has demonstrated her curatorial muscle and her intellectual power. With her keen eye for talented artists and important art, she will move the institution forward. The board is excited to bring her to Chicago, confident that our city’s cultural landscape and the art community around the world will be enriched by her contributions.”

“Solveig has a strong artistic vision along with experience in building an institution. She will be an outstanding leader for The Renaissance Society as it prepares to celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2015. She comes to Chicago with a demonstrated commitment to supporting artists who are creating important new work. The international art community will be rewarded with an exciting and strong curatorial vision,” added Ghez.

As executive director of The Renaissance Society, Øvstebø will serve as the chief curator and will be responsible for the museum’s overall management, including its exhibitions and programs, its physical, financial and human resources, and its future growth and development.

"I am very excited and honored to take on the task of directing The Renaissance Society, an institution that I have followed and admired for so long. With its artistic independence, uncompromising programming and the will to let artists work in-depth with new art production, The Renaissance Society forms a unique platform in the contemporary institutional landscape. I am truly looking forward to taking part in the continuation of this important institution,” said Øvstebø.

Øvstebø, an art historian and curator, has served as the director of Bergen Kunsthall since 2003, developing it into one of the main European, contemporary art institutions, with a focus on production, research and discourse. She has curated and co-curated numerous exhibitions, including Slide Richard Tuttle (2012), Gabriel Kuri (2012), Tretrachromat Tauba Auerbach (2011), Christopher Williams (2011), Gambaroff, Krebber, Quaytman, Rayne (2010), Looking is Political: Nairy Baghramian, Bojan Sarcevic, Ane Hjort Guttu (2009), Stephen Prina (2009), Rosalind Nasashibi (2009), Sergej Jenssen (2008), Leibhaftige Malerei Jxxxa: Jutta Koether (2008), Center of Gravity: Runa Islam (2007), Awakenings: Rodney Graham (2006), Shifting: Aernout Mik (2006) and The Welfare Show: Elmgreen & Dragset (2005).

Øvstebø also has taught art theory and art history at the art academies of Helsinki, Finland, and Bergen, Norway, and has written and lectured extensively on contemporary art. She is a board member of Arts Council Norway and was head organizer of the Bergen Biennnial Conference in Bergen, Norway, in September 2009. The conference led to publication of the anthology, The Biennial Reader, which she edited with Elena Filipovic and Marieke Van Hal.

Through exhibitions, commissions, publications and interdisciplinary education programming, The Renaissance Society advances the growth and understanding of the artistic ideas of our time. The museum exhibits and promotes artists whose work questions, expands, and re-imagines the aesthetic boundaries of the visual arts.

The museum’s educational program complements the exhibitions with publications, concerts, lectures, literary readings, and panel discussions by interdisciplinary scholars and artists, including historians, economists, musicians, poets, fiction writers and physicists.

Currently, The Renaissance Society is presenting an exhibition of works by Vietnam-born, Berlin-based artist Danh Vo, the Guggenheim Foundation’s 2012 Hugo Boss Prize recipient. Vo’s ongoing project, We The People, is being exhibited by The Renaissance Society through Dec. 16, in collaboration with the Art Institute of Chicago. Composed of sections of the Statue of Liberty reproduced at full scale, We The People is installed both on the premises of the Art Institute and on the UChicago campus at the Oriental Institute, the University of Chicago Booth Business School and the University of Chicago Law School. The Renaissance Society gallery in Cobb Hall is exhibiting Uterus—a solo exhibition of both new and previously exhibited work by Vo.

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Solveig Øvstebø

Solveig Øvstebø will succeed Susanne Ghez as executive director of The Renaissance Society. Ghez has been director of the contemporary art museum on the UChicago campus since 1974.

Photo by Paul S. Amundsen

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