“Art involves different ways of seeing and my time at school primed me for this field.”
Eva Respini, chief curator of Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), says that art wasn’t one of her favourite subjects at school. But her time in Zurich, she reflects, did sow the seeds for a career in the art world.
The child of international parents, by the time Eva, Class of 1994 (1989-94), started at “the Villa on the hill” she had lived in Italy, France, the US and the former Yugoslavia. Eva says: “AISZ was very diverse and most people spoke multiple languages. None of my friends had the same nationality, and many had dual nationalities. We had international festivities where people brought in food from their country – we ate the best sushi from the Japanese students and the most amazing falafel from the Israelis.” A highlight was a Model United Nations (MUN) programme, where she and other students went to the MUN in the Netherlands and debated current events and policy with other schools.
“The fluency and comfort I gained at school with people with different backgrounds, experiences and points of view have served me well in my career,” she says. “I felt I was a global citizen. Art reminds us of our humanity and involves different ways of seeing, and my time at school primed me for this field.”
After studying Art History at Columbia University in New York and falling in love with the city’s galleries, Eva got a position as a curatorial assistant at The Museum of Modern Art.
Realising how much she loved working with artists, she did a postgraduate degree in Art History and Theory and then rose through the ranks, eventually organising major exhibitions, such as a retrospective of leading contemporary artist Cindy Sherman. Indeed the book she co-authored (with Johanna Burton) on Sherman is now being used in art lessons for the current crop of ZIS students.
Today, having moved to Boston with her husband and four-year-old daughter, Eva says: “What I love most about curating is collaborating closely with artists – over years of preparation for a large exhibition, you get to live in the artist’s head. It’s never boring.”
WORDS OLIVIA GORDON PHOTOGRAPHY LIZA VOLL