Edward J. Sullivan

(on sabbatical fall 2022 and fall 2023, on leave spring 2024)

Deputy Director; Helen Gould Shepard Professor in the History of Art; the Institute of Fine Arts and College of Arts and Sciences

My intellectual formation at the IFA in Early Modern art with a concentration on southern Europe was an excellent preparation for my later studies in the art of the Americas. I began teaching at NYU in the early 1980s at the Department of Art History where I also served as Chair for some thirteen years. From 2003 to 2009 I served as FAS Dean for the Humanities while continuing my teaching and research. I was invited to teach at the IFA in 1991, offering a seminar on Mexican art of the twentieth century. The IFA became my principal department in 2010 and I currently teach two graduate courses (seminars and lecture courses) and one undergraduate course per year. I have a long-standing interest in the arts and visual cultures of the Americas with a particular concentration in the Spanish and Portuguese speaking countries of Latin America and the Caribbean. Looking at the greater importance of the diasporas (African, Asian) to the Americas also deeply informs my work as does a keen interest in modern and contemporary Latinx art about which I have written extensively. Nonetheless what characterizes my work and teaching perhaps more than anything else is my desire to cross borders and look beyond the confines of the places I examine. I am interested in socio-political approaches to art history combined with broader theoretical concerns. In all of my work the object of art is a principal focus of interest. My 2007 book The Language of Objects in the Art of the Americas (Yale) may be taken as an example of my dedication to observation, description and analysis of individual works of art. In the past several years I have been instrumental in creating the newly-formatted version of the Institute’s curatorial track. Named the Marita and Jan Vilcek program in Curatorial Practice and Museum History, this consists of object-based courses taught by IFA faculty and a wide variety of museum curators (see description on IFA website). I regularly teach the introductory seminar in which we count on the intervention of many New York-based museum colleagues (curators, directors, education staff, collectors, critics and archivists) to debate and discuss with students their own work and the students’ future careers.

My scholarship has been based in the arts of the Americas from the later nineteenth century to the present. I continue to work and lecture in the area of Early Modern Iberian and Viceregal art. Although I take a trans-national approach, individual countries such as Mexico, Cuba, Brazil, Argentina, Puerto Rico and Uruguay are of particular importance to me. The Caribbean is an area in which I have concentrated my publishing and teaching efforts. My 2014 book From San Juan to Paris and Back: Francisco Oller and Caribbean Art in the Era of Impressionism (Yale) is the result of seven years of research in this area. The Francophone nations of the region are also of interest to me. In 2018 I published Making the Americas Modern: Hemispheric Art 1910-1960 (Laurence King Publishing, London), comprising a series of eight essays in which I examine individual aesthetic, socio-political, literary and theoretical problems as faced by artists throughout the Americas in order to interrogate the nature of artistic communality throughout a broadly defined region. My edited volume The Americas Revealed: Collecting Latin American Colonial and Modern Art in the United States (Pennsylvania State University Press, 2018) charts the course of the formation of collections of arts of the Americas in the private and public sector from the nineteenth century to the present.

Throughout my career I have served as both an academic and a curator. Working in museums in the U.S., Latin America and Europe since the 1980s, I have organized or collaborated on numerous exhibitions of modern and contemporary Latin American art. My 2015 exhibition at The Brooklyn Museum, the Blanton Museum at UT Austin and the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico on nineteenth century art of the Caribbean derived its subject from my book on the Puerto Rican painter Francisco Oller and his world between the Americas and Europe. Among my more recent curatorial projects include a retrospective of the art of New York based painter Roberto Juarez for the Boulder (Colorado) Museum of Contemporary Art (summer 2018) and an exhibition (summer 2019) of the work of Brazilian garden architect, designer and painter Roberto Burle Marx for the New York Botanical Garden. Entitled Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx,” this show (for which I co-edited the accompanying book) presented the multi-faceted garden architect, painter and conservation activist in a new light, following the splendid 2016 panoramic exhibition at The Jewish Museum.

My teaching varies between lecture courses and seminars as well as independent directed research courses. I have co-taught several seminars with colleagues from other disciplines, such as a course on Surrealism in the literature and art of the Caribbean and Mexico and another on the history of collecting Latin American art in the U.S. These team-taught courses have been especially stimulating and successful.

The panorama of Latin American art at NYU is enhanced by many additional activities - lectures and colloquia both uptown and downtown. These include the Latin American Forum, which I began at the IFA in 2012. This is a platform for artists, curators and scholars to come to the IFA and present their work in a seminar format. The Colloquium on Spanish and Latin American Art is an equally important format for discussion of work in a wider variety of areas relating to the Iberian world.

NYU has become a hub of activity in my field and I believe that it has served as a very positive force in the intellectual formation of students from around the world interested in the arts of the Americas.

Sample courses

Abstractions in the Americas
Surrealism in the Caribbean and Mexico
Modernism in Latin America
Caribbean Art
Arts of Brazil
Mexican Painting 1875-1950
Arts in Mexico 1910-1960
Arts of Brazil: Three Moments of Modernity: 1920s, 1960s and Contemporary
Directed readings courses in modern and contemporary art in Latin America and the Caribbean

Selected Books and Book-length Exhibition Catalogues

Brazilian Modern: The Living Art of Roberto Burle Marx (New York: The New York Botanical Garden 2019) principal author and co-editor. Curator of exhibition
Processing: Paintings and Prints by Roberto Juarez (exhibition catalogue) Boulder (Co.) Museum of Contemporary Art, 2018. Curator and author of catalogue
Making the Americas Modern: Hemispheric Art 1910-1960 (Global Perspectives Art History, 2018)
From San Juan to Paris and Back: Francisco Oller and Caribbean Art in the Era of Impressionism (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2014)
Observed: Milagros de la Torre (New York: Americas Society and Lima, Peru: Museo de Arte de Lima, 2012) curated exhibition and wrote principal essay in catalogue
Concrete Improvisations: Collages and Sculptures by Esteban Vicente (with Lynn Gumpert) exhibition catalogue (New York: Grey Art Gallery, NYU) 2011
Nueva York: 1613-1945 (editor and essayist) (New York: Scala Books, 2010)
Fragile Demon: Juan Soriano in Mexico 1935-1950 (Philadelphia Museum of Art and Yale University Press, 2008)
Continental Shifts: The Art of Edouard Duval Carrié (editor and author of principal essay) (Miami: Haitian Cultural Alliance, 2008)
The Language of Objects in the Art of the Americas (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007)
Emilio Pettoruti (with Nelly Perrazo) (Buenos Aires: LaMarca Editora, 2004)
Tomas Sánchez (with Gabriel García Márquez) (New York: Skira, 2003)
Brazil: Body & Soul (editor and principal author) (New York: Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Harry N. Abrams, 2001)

Selected articles

“Trace and Testimony: The Drawings of Marcelo Bonevardi” in exhibition catalogue Marcelo Bonevardi. Magic Made Manifest (Miami: Lowe Art Museum, 2019), pp. 6-9

“Black Visualities in Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries” in Henry Louis Gates Jr. and David Bindman (eds.) Image of the Black in Western Art (forthcoming 2019)

“Transatlantic Maruja Mallo: Women Artists of the American Vanguard Movements,” in Maruja Mallo. Catálogo razonado (Madrid: Guillermo de Osma, 2019, Estrella De Diego, ed.) 

“José Gurvich. Between Tradition and Radicality” in exhibition catalogue José Gurvich (1927-1974) (Montevideo and Washington D.C.: Galería Al Sur and Embassy of Uruguay in U.S., 2018), pp. 23-25

“Tangible Ambiguities: Paintings by Julio Larraz,” Ameringer,McEnery, Yohe Gallery, New York, 2018

“Close Encounters with Edouard Duval-Carrié: A Quarter Century of Friendship & collaboration,” in exhibition catalogue De-Colonizing Refinement: Contemporary Pursuits in the Art of Edouard Duval-Carrié (Tallahassee: Florida State University Museum of Fine Arts, 2018) pp. 46-57 

“Esteban Lisa: from Margin to Mainstream,” in exhibition catalogue Esteban Lisa: The Abstract Cabinet (Madrid and Palma de Mallorca” Fundación Juan March, 2017), pp. 10-19

“Portuguese Art History: A View from North America and Observations on the Portuguese Baroque,” Journal of Art Historiography, June, 2017

“Francisco Toledo: the 1970s – Creativity and Consolidation” forthcoming in Francisco Toledo catalogue raisonné of the work of the artist, vol. 2 (Madrid and Mexico City: Turner Publicaciones, 2017)

“Crossing Borders, Breaking Boundaries: An Artist in a Cross-Cultural Context,” in Jim Amaral. Known Works (Bogota: Amaral Editores, 2016, pp, 10-18.

“Jesús María Lazkano: Meditations on Light, Air and Space” in  Jesús María Lazkano(San Sebastián, Spain: Editorial Nerea), 2016, pp. 19-27

“The Power of Words: Writings on Art and Society by Julio Le Parc” for exhibition catalogue Julio Le Parc: Form into Action. (Miami: Perez Art Museum Miami) 2016, pp.163-168

“Carmen Herrera: South to North” for exhibition catalogue Carmen Herrera Lines of Sight, (New York: Whitney Museum of American Art and Yale University Press, 2016, pp. 69-81

“Claudio Bravo,” in exhibition catalogue Superposiciones. Arte latinoamericano en colecciones mexicanas(ed. James Oles) (Mexico City: Museo Tamayo Arte Contemporáneo, 2015) pp. 66-77

“Landscapes of Desire: The Land as Resource in the Caribbean,” in exhibition catalogue From Tierra del Fuego to the Arctic: Landscape Painting in the Americas (Art Gallery of Ontario, May 2015)

" 'La magie de l'authenticité': Deux décennies d'exposition et d'étude de l'art haïtien aux États-Unies et en Grande-Bretagne," Gradhiva. Revue d’Anthropologie et d’Histoires des Arts, number 21, 2015, pp. 207-221

“Artists Before the Lens: Painters and Photographers in Haiti,” in the exhibition catalogue Through the Lens: Haiti from Within and Without, Ft. Lauderdale Museum of Art (June, 2015)

“Du Musée des Origines au Musée Afro-Brasil” Réinventer l’Institution Artistique,” Perspective. Actualités de la Recherché en Histoire de l’Art. La Revue de l’INHA, no.2, 2012-13, pp. 224, 238 (intervention in a debate about Brazilian museums with three Brazilian and French scholars)

“José Gurvich,” exhibition catalogue, PINTA: The Modern and Contemporary Latin American Art Show. Wrote catalogue and curated exhibition, November, 2013

“Gurvich en Nueva York: una relación conflictiva,” in exhibition catalogue José Gurvich. Cruzando Fronteras (Buenos Aires: Museo de Arte Moderno, 2013) pp. 151-167

“Geometry and Gesture: Notes on Abstractions in the Americas,” in exhibition catalogue Pan American Modernism. Avant-Garde Art in Latin America and the United States. University of Miami: Lowe Art Museum, 2013, pp. 25-51

“Information Networks: Collecting and Display of Latin American Art in the United States,” in the exhibition catalogue Order, Chaos and the Space Between. Contemporary Latin American Art from the Diane and Bruce Halle Collection(Phoenix Art Museum: 2013, pp. 105-118

“From the Studio to the Street,” in Juan García de Oteyza (ed.) Laura Anderson Barbata: Transcommunality (Mexico City: Turner Libros), 2012, pp. 9-12

“Displaying the Caribbean. Thirty Years of Exhibitions and collecting in the United States,” in Deborah Cullen and Elvis Fuentes (eds.) Caribbean. Art at the Crossroads of the World (New York: el Museo del Barrio and Yale University Press, 2012), pp. 343-365

“Revelando los inicios de una carrera excepcional,” in Christian Padilla,Fernando Botero. La búsqueda de un estilo (Bogotá, Editorial La Bachué, 2012) pp. 12-13

“Cesar Paternosto: A Celebratory Interchange” and “Edward J. Sullivan Interview with Cesar Paternosto,” in exhibition catalogue Cesar Paternosto. Painting as Object: The Lateral Expansion. New Works (New York: Cecilia de Torres Gallery, 2012), pp. 35-45

“Erasing Borders,” Art in America, September, 2012, pp. 49-52

“Introduction” Bonevardi Works. Bonevardi-Bennett Collaborations (Buenos Aires, Fundación Alón para las Artes, 2012) pp. 9-16ó

“Silent Witness: The Photographic Art of Milagros de la Torre,” in exhibition catalogue Observed. Milagros de la Torre (New York: Americas Society and Lima: MALI, 2012) pp. 10-25

“Mario H. Gradowczyk: Scholar of Modern and Contemporary Art,” in exhibition catalogue Esteban Lisa: Playing with Lines and Color  (Long Beach, Ca. Museum of Latin American Art, 2012) pp. 45-56

“Entre la estática y el movimiento: La naturaleza muerta de José Gurvich,” in anthology Los mundos fantásticos de José Gurvich (Montevideo: Museo Jose Gurvich, 2011), pp. 75-89

“Señas de la luz: Caminos de creatividad y significado en la obra de Ada Balcácer,” in the exhibition catalogue Alas y raices: Ada Balcácer (Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic: Centro cultural Eduardo León Jiménez, 2011), pp. 9-39

“The Lives of Objects: Remembering Claudio Bravo,” Art News, November, 2011, p, 60

“The Art of Claudio Bravo (1936-2011)” Confrontation, no. 110, Fall, 2011, pp. 158-170

“Between Two dimensions: Paintings by Isabel Obaldía,” in exhibition cataloguePrimordial: Paintings and Sculpture by Isabel Obaldía Museum of Art/Fort Lauderdale, 2011, pp. 37-45

“Art Worlds of Nueva York” in Sullivan (ed.) Nueva York. 1613-1945 (New York: Scala Publishers, 2010), pp. 173-215

“Rafael Ferrer in the Tropics: Encounters with Caribbean Art,” in exhibition catalogue Rafael Ferrer (New York: El Museo del Barrio), 2010, pp. 53-65

“Navigating Between the Continents: Further Thoughts on Edouard Duval Carrié’s Work,” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism, 27, October, 2008, pp. 165-174

“Lost in Translation? Juan Luna Between Manila and Madrid” in exhibition catalogue Pioneers of Philippine Modernism(San Francisco: The Asian Art Museum, 2006 pp. 54-82)

“The Black Hand: Notes on the African Presence in Brazil and the Caribbean in the Colonial Period,” in exhibition catalogue The Arts of Latin America 1492-1820(Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2006 pp. 39-55)

“Naturalezas mexicanas: Objects as Cultural Signifiers in Mexican Art c. 1760-1885,” in Stephen Melville (ed.) The Lure of the Object(Clark Studies in the Visual Arts) (Williamstown: Sterling & Francine Clark Art Institute, 2005, pp. 59-71)