“Dr. Irene Sunwoo to Join Art Institute of Chicago as Department Chair”

Irene Sunwoo will Leave Columbia University to Become Chairwoman of The Art Institute of Chicago’s Architectural Department

The Art Institute of Chicago (A.I.C.), which re-opened earlier this month after a second COVID-19-included lockdown, announced on Monday, February 8, A.D. 2021 that Irene Sunwoo, Ph.D., would join the A.I.C. staff as John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of the Architecture and Design Department, effective on Monday, April 26, A.D. 2021.  Dr. Sunwoo is coming to the A.I.C. from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation.  There, since 2016, she has been Curator of the Arthur Ross Gallery of Architecture and Director of Exhibitions.

Irene Sunwoo received her B.A. in Art History from New York University.  She has two Master of Arts degrees (M.A.s), one from the Bard Graduate Center and another from the Architectural Association.  Dr. Sunwoo earned her doctorate from the Princeton University School of Architecture.  She has taught at the Parsons School of Design, Bard College, and Oberlin College.

Figure 1 Credit: Benjamin Mistak Caption: This is Irene Sunwoo, Ph.D., who will be joining The Art Institute of Chicago as John H. Bryan Chair and Curator of the Architecture and Design Department in April of 2021.

In a press release, the A.I.C. stated, “At Columbia, Sunwoo established a distinctive vision, overseeing an experimental and interdisciplinary exhibition program that fused a scholarly approach to content with innovative exhibition design.  In her ongoing collaborations with architects and artists, Sunwoo has supported and advanced new architectural practices, research, and ideas.  She has consistently demonstrated a rigorous commitment to how architecture and design intersects with urban legacies as well as equity and environmental concerns.  As curator of the Ross Gallery, Sunwoo organized numerous revelatory exhibitions, including Eternal Gradient: Arakawa and Madeline Gins (2018), Cooking Sections: Offsetted (2019), Torkwase Dyson: 1919: Black Water (2019), and most recently, A Wilderness Distant (2020), a program of films and essays that confront duality of landscape as sites of memory and political imagination.”

 “Irene’s experience as a thought leader, scholar, and curator makes her uniquely qualified to lead the Architecture and Design team and bring her curatorial vision to Chicago, a longstanding and world-renowned laboratory of architectural theory, practice, and innovation,” stated James Rondeau, President and Eloise W. Martin Director of The Art Institute of Chicago.

“Already invested in Chicago’s architectural history as well as its contemporary practices, Sunwoo served as Associate Curator of the inaugural Chicago Architecture Biennial titled The State of the Art of Architecture (2015) and was a key team member in the launch of this vital new institution,” the A.I.C. stated. 

Dr. Sunwoo edited the book In Progress: IID Summer Sessions, published in 2017.  This is a book on the history of the International Institute of Design (I.I.D.), a school of architecture founded by Alvin Bovarsky and directed by him from 1970 to ’72.  [Bovarsky is famous for begin Chairman of the Architectural Association from 1971 to 1990.]  Further, she has written articles published in journals including Grey Room, AA Files, Harvard Design Magazine, Domus, and the Getty Research Journal.  She has two books in the works, one on Bovarsky, and another on Arakawa and Madeline Gins.


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