Speaker spotlight: Tara Hart

Respecting the Artist’s Wishes: Descriptions of Identity in Museums

“The notion that learning an artist’s background can obscure or distract from the nature of the artist’s achievement is an idea that has been debated amongst curators, art historians, and others for decades. For example, in her contribution to the catalogue for the 1993 Whitney Biennial, curator Elizabeth Sussman writes, “We must not fall into easy essentialist definitions or ideas of groups that are monolithically united…The concept of a border that encircles us, binds in, and can be crossed is useful here.” How often do curators focus on the identities of artists, with the claim that identity plays a part in the development of their work?  How has this curatorial practice ebbed and flowed over time?  How do curators use the identity of queer artists as an impetus for curation?  How important is it to write about the work of queer artists without casting a lens of identity and interpretation?”

Tara Hart

Tara Hart is Archives Manager at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City. Prior to joining the Whitney, Hart performed archival work at the Guggenheim, the New Museum, and the Fales Library and Special Collections. She has organized numerous public programs and exhibitions related to archives and her writing recently appeared in Archive Journal (archivejournal.net). Hart holds an M.S. in Library and Information Science from Pratt Institute and a B.A. in Visual Art-Media from the University of California at San Diego.  

The Frances Mulhall Achilles Library at the Whitney Museum of American Art contains a comprehensive research collection in the field of twentieth-century and contemporary American art. It was originally built on the collections of books and papers of founder Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney, and the Whitney Museum’s first director, Juliana Force.

Of paramount importance to research and scholarship on American art of the twentieth and twenty-first century, today’s collections of books, periodicals, archives, and special collections are accessed by the Whitney’s own staff as well as by outside scholars and researchers. Combined, these resources chronicle the development, over seventy-five years, of an institution committed to American art and artists.

Tara will be speaking on day 2 of the conference

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