Dr. Lisa Freiman is the inaugural Director of Virginia Commonwealth University’s new Institute for Contemporary Art (ICA), which has been designed by world-renowned Steven Holl Architects. Currently under construction, the ICA will feature exhibitions, music, experimental performances, and films by nationally and internationally recognized artists. The ICA will be a non-collecting contemporary art institution designed to accommodate the increasing lack of barriers among different media and practices. Freiman served as senior curator and chair of the contemporary art department at the Indianapolis Museum of Art (IMA) between 2002 and 2013.
Freiman is an internationally recognized curator and leader in the contemporary art field. During her 11 years at the IMA, Freiman transformed the experience of contemporary art in Indianapolis. She created a dynamic and widely renowned contemporary art program that has become an influential model for encyclopedic museums as they engage with the art of our time. Actively seeking out the works of emerging and established international artists, Freiman has provided a platform to support artists’ work through major traveling exhibitions, commissions, acquisitions, and publications. In 2011, Freiman served as commissioner of the U.S. Pavilion in the 54th International Art Exhibition, la Biennale di Venezia, presenting six newly commissioned, site-responsive works by Puerto Rico-based artists Allora & Calzadilla, the first collaborative to be presented in the U.S. Pavilion.
Under Freiman’s vision and direction, the IMA opened 100 Acres: The Virginia B. Fairbanks Art & Nature Park to international critical acclaim in June 2010. 100 Acres offers a new model for sculpture parks in the 21st century, emphasizing experimentation, place-making, and public engagement with a constantly changing constellation of commissioned artworks. Inaugural installations included works by eight artists and artist collaboratives from around the world including Atelier Van Lieshout, Kendall Buster, Jeppe Hein, Alfredo Jaar, Los Carpinteros, Tea Mäkipää, Type A, and Andrea Zittel. Freiman instituted a number of public art installations while in Indianapolis, including a rotating series of site-specific commissions for the IMA’s Efroymson Family entry pavilion.
Most recently, she led a major collaboration with a local Indianapolis developer to curate the art program for The Alexander art hotel that opened in downtown Indianapolis in 2013, featuring work by 25 artists, including 14 newly commissioned pieces. Freiman commissioned works from artists including Jorge Pardo, Alyson Shotz, Jaume Plensa, Sonya Clark, Adam Cvijanovic, Mark Fox, Artur Silva, and Paul Villinski for the project. At the IMA Freiman realized major commissions by artists including Robert Irwin, Kay Rosen, Tony Feher, Orly Genger, Julianne Swartz, and Ghada Amer, and curated numerous exhibitions of works by international contemporary artists including Aziz + Cucher, Amy Cutler, Ingrid Calame, Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons, Ernesto Neto, and Tara Donovan. In October 2013, Tripadvisor honored The Alexander, naming it the sixth best hotel in the United States and the 30th best hotel in the world.
Between 2002 and 2005, Freiman implemented a renovation and expansion of IMA’s contemporary art galleries, which doubled in size to 25,000 square feet and introduced a new contemporary video art gallery. Freiman has published extensively on contemporary art, including books on Amy Cutler (Amy Cutler, Hatje Cantz, 2006), María Magdalena Campos-Pons (María Magdalena Campos-Pons: Everything Is Separated by Water, Yale University Press, 2007), Type A (Type A, Hatje Cantz, 2010), Allora & Calzadilla (Gloria, Del Monico/Prestel, 2011), and Aziz and Cucher (Hatje Cantz, 2012). She is currently adapting her dissertation, “(Mind)ing The Store: Claes Oldenburg’s Psychoaesthetics,” into the first scholarly monograph on Claes Oldenburg entitled Claes Oldenburg and the Sixties. Prior to joining IMA, Freiman worked as assistant professor of art history, theory, and criticism at the University of Georgia, Athens and served in the curatorial department of the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. She earned her doctorate and master’s degrees in modern and contemporary art history from Emory University and has a bachelors of arts degree from Oberlin College.
Photo: Diego Valdez