Emma Imbrie Chubb has been named the inaugural Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curator of Contemporary Art at the Smith College Museum of Art. Her appointment is effective July 10, 2017.
Chubb is a Ph.D. candidate and Presidential Fellow in the Department of Art History at Northwestern University. Her dissertation, “Migration Forms,” reflects her expertise in Moroccan video art, photography and site-specific sculpture, as well as her broader interest in migration, minority communities and cross-cultural exchange in contemporary art and visual culture.
Jessica Nicoll, director and Louise Ines Doyle ’34 Chief Curator at the SCMA, said Chubb emerged as the search committee’s unanimous choice after a wide-ranging national search. “Contemporary art is an exciting and dynamic field,” she noted, “one that’s generating a great deal of attention today. The Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curator’s position attracted strong interest from across the nation—and indeed, from all over the world. The search committee was particularly pleased to offer the position to Emma Chubb, whose scholarship, curatorial experience and expansive curiosity indicate the power of contemporary art to respond to current issues and to shape individual and public opinion around the issues of the day.”
Charlotte Feng Ford ’83, whose 2016 gift established the curator’s position, said meeting Chubb reminded her of why she is so passionate about collecting contemporary art. “Emma’s intelligence, curiosity and engagement with world issues are invigorating, and these wonderful traits are in a way aligned with how I started collecting emerging artists,” Ford said. “Emma’s enthusiasm is exciting, and her ideas for the new curator’s position are inspiring. She will develop understanding amongst students and the community that will lead to many fantastic opportunities at the museum,” Ford said.
Ford added that she was thrilled that the first Charlotte Feng Ford Curator of Contemporary Art begins work at the same time Maya Lin, one of the nation’s most influential contemporary artists, is designing the new library for Smith. “It’s a gift for me and part of the lasting impact that I hoped my gift to Smith would provide,” she said.
Chubb said she was “delighted about the opportunity to integrate research, exhibition and teaching interests in support of the kind of women’s education in the liberal arts that Smith defines. As a Haverford College alumna and the daughter of a Smith alumna [Charity Imbrie ’76], I am eager to collaborate with Smith students and faculty from across disciplines on projects that take the museum’s collections as the bases for exhibitions, courses and programs that create space for tough conversations about topics like race, gender and sexuality,” she said. “At the same time, I look forward to bringing the contemporary art of the so-called ‘global south’ into dialogue with U.S. and Western European canons.”
As the inaugural Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curator of Contemporary Art at Smith, Chubb will play a key role in managing the museum’s collections and exhibitions in art from the late 20th century to the present—organizing exhibitions, public events, special projects, residencies and publications.
She also will work closely with faculty and students to foster significant, sustained curricular and scholarly engagement with the museum’s program and collections in contemporary art.
Frazer Ward, professor of art at Smith and a member of the search committee, said, “The committee was delighted to have someone with Chubb’s credentials—and her promise—among the applicants for the new curator’s position. With this position, Smith has an opportunity to shape critical thinking about contemporary art locally, regionally, nationally and internationally. Emma Chubb’s scholarship—and her ability to connect her academic work with critical global issues—will help engage Smith’s students and community members more broadly in important discussions about art and its role in the world today.”
Chubb has international expertise and professional networks that will support her work at SCMA. From 2013 to 2016, she was a consultant for Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art in Doha, Qatar. While there, she led the editorial team for a Madrid exhibition of 160 artworks from Mathaf’s permanent collection. In 2014, Chubb curated an exhibition on Mohssin Harraki at L’appartement 22, Morocco’s first independent art space, commissioning the artist to create an innovative body of new work. She also was founding co-director of Doukan 7002, a year-long project space in Chicago, and has served as a research assistant and translator for exhibitions in Rabat and Marrakech, Morocco, and in South Korea.
Wendy Cromwell ’86, an art consultant and collector who served on the search committee, noted that Chubb’s appointment supports and expands existing strong interest in contemporary art among Smith students, many of whom go on to work in the art world. Some 10 percent of Smith’s alumnae are involved in the arts as professionals, patrons and volunteers, Cromwell noted, and Smith alumnae include Thelma Golden ’87, director and chief curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, and Rebecca Rabinow ’88, newly appointed director of the Menil Collection in Houston. “By bringing Smith students into dialogue with contemporary art and by promoting discussion around the issues and viewpoints that contemporary art raises,” Cromwell said, “this new appointment will expand interdisciplinary dialogue and strengthen even further the important role of art in a Smith education.”
In addition to her multiyear Presidential Fellowship at Northwestern, Chubb is a recipient of a 2016 Camargo Foundation Residential Fellowship to Cassis, France, and an American Institute for Maghrib Studies Long-Term Research Grant in 2013-14.
Chubb has published articles in Art Journal, The Journal of Arabic Literature and Nafas Art Magazine, among others. She also has been an invited lecturer at conferences and universities in the U.S., France and Morocco.
Chubb holds a B.A. degree, magna cum laude, in the history of art and French from Haverford College. She expects to receive her Ph.D. in art history from Northwestern University in June.
About the Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curatorship
The Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curator of Contemporary Art position was established at SCMA in 2016 with a $2.5 million gift from Charlotte Feng Ford ’83, a prominent collector and philanthropist and a member of the board of directors at the New Museum and at The Kitchen.
The new curator’s position affirms SCMA’s historical commitment to collecting and studying the art of our times, while recognizing the increased complexity of the contemporary art field. It also cements Smith’s place as a leader among college and university art museums by bringing a specialist in contemporary art into the curatorial staff—a rarity in the college museum world.
The Charlotte Feng Ford ’83 Curator of Contemporary Art position also allows the SCMA, which was founded some 140 years ago as a collection of recent art works, to offer a new and nearly unparalleled academic focus on contemporary art.
Ford has said that she hoped the new curator’s position would make it easier for Smith College students and others who visit the museum to “be with the art of their times.” That access, she noted, is “a way to enhance the Smith curriculum, and it’s a way to help people see the world in different ways. I didn’t grow up surrounded by the art of my time,” Ford added, “but my children did, and that broadened their perspectives. Contemporary artists are responding to current issues, and people who see that work can’t help but be shaped by it.”
About Charlotte Feng Ford
A 1983 graduate of Smith with a degree in economics, Charlotte Feng Ford became interested in art early in life after a family trip to Europe. She began collecting contemporary art after graduating from Smith. When she realized that art had the power to transform lives, a personal hobby became an ambitious lifetime venture and a way to foster the early career of young artists and the institutions that support them.
Ford’s collection focuses on emerging talent and a commitment to individual artists such as Karen Kilimnik, Andrea Bowers, Ryan Trecartin, Gabriel Orozco, Wade Guyton, Laura Owens and Gedi Sibony. The collection also includes significant historical works by Yayoi Kusama, David Hammons, Mira Schendel and Alice Neel. Guided by passion and subject matter that is important to her, Ford has collected and supported the works of Martha Rosler, Carol Bové, Isa Gensken and Anne Collier.
Ford’s work as a collector has earned her leadership positions in some of the nation’s most important and exciting art institutions. She serves as a member of the board of directors of both the New Museum and The Kitchen, and she also is a member of the Whitney Museum of Art’s painting and sculpture acquisition committee, as well as the visiting committee for photography at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In addition, Ford serves as a member of the board of directors of Summer Search, a youth organization that provides formative summer experiences to young people in Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, North Bay San Francisco, San Francisco, Seattle and Silicon Valley.