Valerie Cassel Oliver to Receive 2022 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence
2020 Awardee Connie Butler also to be Honored at CCS Bard Gala Celebration on April 6 in New York City Co-chaired by Lonti Ebers and Martin Eisenberg
The Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CCS Bard) announced that Valerie Cassel Oliver, the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA), has been named as the 2022 recipient of the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence. For twenty-three years, the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence has celebrated the achievements of a distinguished curator whose lasting contributions have shaped the way we conceive of exhibition-making today. The award, which is accompanied by a $25,000 prize, reflects CCS Bard’s commitment to recognizing individuals who have defined new thinking, bold vision, and dedicated service to the field of exhibition practice.
With a curatorial practice spanning over two decades, Cassel Oliver will be honored at CCS Bard’s spring 2022 gala celebration and dinner on Wednesday, April 6. The event, co-chaired by Lonti Ebers, CCS Bard Board of Governors member, and Martin Eisenberg, Chairman of the CCS Bard Board of Governors, will be held at Manhattan West in New York City. Connie Butler, the 2020 recipient of the award, will also be honored during the gala. The event is supported by Lonti Ebers.
"From her most recent survey, The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse at VMFA to major retrospectives and the very redefinition of performance, Valerie Cassel Oliver should be considered one of America’s great ‘thought leaders,’ a curator who constantly surprises, enlightens, and broadens the scope of art,” said Tom Eccles, Executive Director, CCS Bard.
“It is deeply humbling to be acknowledged for my work. I feel it is necessary work, created from a space of commitment and passion. And, I have been quite fortunate over the years to bring ideas to the fore and to celebrate amazing artists and their work. It is immensely gratifying to be acknowledged especially by CCS Bard because of its role in sustaining the viability of curatorial practice,” said Cassel Oliver.
About Valerie Cassel Oliver
Valerie Cassel Oliver has served as the Sydney and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts since 2017. Her 2018 debut exhibition at the museum was the fifty-year survey of work by Howardena Pindell. The traveling exhibition, Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen, was co-organized with Naomi Beckwith and named one of the most influential of the decade. Cassel Oliver subsequently organized Cosmologies from the Tree of Life, an exhibition featuring over thirty newly acquired works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. Most recently, she curated the critically acclaimed exhibition The Dirty South: Contemporary Art, Material Culture, and the Sonic Impulse. The sweeping survey was honored as one of the best exhibitions of 2021 and is currently traveling to venues across the U.S. through January 2023.
Prior to the VMFA, Cassel Oliver served as the Senior Curator at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston (CAMH) from 2000 to 2017, where she organized numerous exhibitions including the acclaimed Double Consciousness: Black Conceptual Art Since 1970 (2005), Cinema Remixed & Reloaded: Black Women Artists and the Moving Image Since 1970 with Dr. Andrea Barnwell Brownlee (2009), and Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art (2012). She has also mounted significant survey exhibitions for Benjamin Patterson, Donald Moffett, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Jennie C. Jones, Angel Otero, and Annabeth Rosen.
Cassel Oliver was the director of the Visiting Artist Program at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (1995–2000) and a program specialist at the National Endowment for the Arts (1988–1995). In 2000, she was appointed one of six curators to organize the Biennial for the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York.
Cassel Oliver is the recipient of a Getty Curatorial Research Fellowship (2007), a fellowship from the Center of Curatorial Leadership (2009), the High Museum of Art’s David C. Driskell Award (2011), the Arthur and Carol Kaufman Goldberg Foundation-to-Life Fellowship at Hunter College (2016), the James A. Porter Book Award from Howard University (2018), and the Detroit Institute of Art’s Alain Locke International Art Award (2022). From 2016 to 2017, she was a Senior Fellow in Curatorial Studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and, in spring 2020, she served with Hamza Walker as a Fellow for Viewpoints at the University of Texas at Austin.
Cassel Oliver holds an Executive MBA from Columbia University, New York; an M.A. in art history from Howard University in Washington, D.C., and a B.S. in communications from the University of Texas at Austin.
About Connie Butler
Connie Butler received the 2020 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence in recognition of her achievements in creating bold and independent exhibitions that showcase her significant commitment to artists. Butler is the Chief Curator at the Hammer Museum at UCLA, where she organized Made in L.A. (2014), Mark Bradford: Scorched Earth (2015), and Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space (2017). Her other exhibitions include Adrian Piper: A Synthesis of Intuitions (2018), Andrea Fraser: Men on the Line (2019), and Lari Pittman: Declaration of Independence (2019). Butler previously served as The Robert Lehman Foundation Chief Curator of Drawings at The Museum of Modern Art, New York and as curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles where in 2007 she organized the historic exhibition WACK! Art and the Feminist Revolution.
About Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence
Launched at CCS Bard in 1998 to recognize groundbreaking visionaries in the curatorial field, the Award for Curatorial Excellence is selected by an independent panel of leading contemporary art curators, museum directors, and artists. The award is named in recognition of patron Audrey Irmas, who bestowed the endowment for the Audrey Irmas Prize of $25,000. Irmas is an emeritus board member of CCS Bard and an active member of the Los Angeles arts and philanthropic community. The award itself is designed by artist Lawrence Weiner, and is based on his 2006 commission Bard Enter, conceived for the entrance to the Hessel Museum of Art at CCS Bard.
Past recipients of the Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence include Connie Butler (2020), Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (2019), Lia Gangitano (2018), Nicholas Serota (2017), Thelma Golden (2016), Christine Tohmé and Martha Wilson (2015), Charles Esche (2014), Elisabeth Sussman (2013), Ann Goldstein (2012), Helen Molesworth and Hans Ulrich Obrist (2011), Lucy Lippard (2010), Okwui Enwezor (2009), Catherine David (2008), Alanna Heiss (2007), Lynne Cooke and Vasif Kortun (2006), Kathy Halbreich and Mari Carmen Ramírez (2005), Walter Hopps (2004), Kynaston McShine (2003), Susanne Ghez (2002), Paul Schimmel (2001), Kasper König (2000), Marcia Tucker (1999), and Harald Szeemann (1998).