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redeyechicago.com

Art Institute taps French scholar for key curator job

Mark Caro

5:37 PM CDT, June 26, 2012

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Sylvain Bellenger, currently chief curator of National Heritage at the Institut National d'Histoire de l'Art in Paris, will become the Art Institute of Chicago’s new chair and curator of the Department of Medieval through Modern European Painting and Sculpture, the museum announced Tuesday.

The position, responsible for the largest of the Art Institute’s 11 curatorial groups, was previously occupied by Douglas Druick, who became the museum’s president and director last August. Druick called Bellenger’s appointment “an exciting hire.”

“In thinking about how to build the department, I wanted someone who would be able to complement the existing strengths of the department and someone who would bring a different perspective,” Druick said. “Sylvain Bellenger, who has been trained in France but also has worked in an American museum (as curator of European Sculpture and Paintings at the Cleveland Museum of Art), brings a fresh perspective.”

Druick also said his successor’s wide range of interests — including architecture, decorative arts, baroque painting and romantic sculpture — would be beneficial in overseeing a department that encompasses almost 1,000 years of art making, including the museum’s considerable Impressionist and Post-Impressionist collection, paintings by modern European artists such as Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse plus earlier works by El Greco and Francisco José de Goya y Lucientes, among many others.

The French scholar’s official start date is Oct. 1, though he is scheduled to visit the museum Thursday.