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Posted on: August 14, 2017

Telfair Museum of Art presents - Kirk Varnedoe: In the Middle at the Modern

Kirk Varnedoe: In the Middle at the Modern, on view September 22 at Telfair Museums in Savannah, Georgia, is a multimedia exhibition that challenges reality, questions authenticity, and ignites discussions about the power of museums to bestow objects with “high” or “low” value. Curated by Triple Candie, a phantom-like institution run by internationally-noted art historians Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett, the exhibition will reflect on Varnedoe’s contributions to curatorial practice by re-examining his first major exhibition, High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture (Museum of Modern Art, New York, 1990), now with the hindsight of three decades.

Varnedoe (American, 1946–2003) was a figure deeply connected to Savannah, as a celebrated native and honored at Telfair Museums through our Kirk Varnedoe Collection, who achieved the status of a national art-world legend. In his role as chief curator of painting and sculpture at MoMA (1988–2001), he set in motion vital debates about art that continue to reverberate today. “Varnedoe was the central figure at MoMA during our formative years--while we were studying art history and after. It was astonishing at that time to see either an art historian or a curator stir as much public and critical interest as he did. How many curators do you know--even today--that are recognizable to people outside the art world?" said Triple Candie’s Peter Nesbett.

Blending personal biography with historical scholarship, this presentation uses fabricated objects in the form of altered documents, sculptural recreations, photographs, sets, animations, modified posters, ephemera, and wall texts. Triple Candie’s curatorial

directive is to raise questions about art and the often-unquestioned ideas surrounding it, such as originality, authenticity, influence, history, and value.
“How do you take a larger-than-life character and convey his legacy on a more bite-sized, intimate scale? This is what Triple Candie aims to do through this exhibition, which explores Varnedoe’s life (from his roots as a Savannahian, a Southerner, an athlete and young artist) and then draws out how that upbringing translated to his professional career at MoMA, where he came to be the foremost authority on modern art dialogue for over a decade” says Rachel Reese, Telfair Museums’ Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Kirk Varnedoe: In the Middle at the Modern is on view September 22– February 11, 2018 at Telfair Museums’ Jepson Center in historic Savannah.

This exhibition is commissioned and organized by Telfair Museums, and curated by Triple Candie in collaboration with Rachel Reese, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art.

Sponsorship is provided by the City of Savannah Department of Cultural Affairs.

Related Programs:

ART PAPERS Live: A Conversation with Triple Candie
Saturday, October 21, 3pm / Jepson Center
Free and open to the public.

What value do museums place on art objects, and how does that affect what they choose to exhibit? How in turn does that affect how you value objects, and what you learn and how you behave in a museum? These were questions raised back in Kirk Varnedoe’s first major exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in 1990, and they are central to Triple Candie’s curatorial practice, which avoids fine art completely and reduces everything to the status of the surrogate or prop.

Telfair partners with ART PAPERS magazine to present a conversation with Triple Candie around the issues and themes presented in Kirk Varnedoe: In the Middle at the Modern. The conversation will be moderated by Victoria Camblin, editor and artistic director of ART PAPERS, with Shelly Bancroft and Peter Nesbett, the art historians/co-founders of Triple Candie, and special guests. The conversation begins at 3pm, and Triple Candie will be available in the galleries after the discussion at 4pm. For more information, visit:

About Triple Candie

Founded in 2001, Triple Candie is a research-oriented, independent curatorial agency -- run by two art historians -- that produces exhibitions about art but largely devoid of it. Its primary purpose since late 2005 has been to explore the possibilities of exhibition-making as a truly alternative, critical practice. From 2001 to 2010, Triple Candie operated a series of galleries in Harlem. Since 2011, it has been guest-curating exhibitions for organizations in the United States and Europe.

About the Kirk Varnedoe Collection, Telfair Museums:

The Kirk Varnedoe Collection celebrates the life and legacy of Kirk Varnedoe through the presentation of works on paper created by the contemporary artists he most admired—pivotal artists of the past fifty years that collectively presents an example of the wide-range of artistic production present in New York during Varnedoe’s MoMA tenure. The works in this collection are permanent gifts to the Telfair, 27 works donated by 22 artists (or their representatives), amassed in 2006 in Varnedoe’s memory. Telfair Museums is grateful to Elyn Zimmerman, artist and wife of Kirk Varnedoe, for her crucial role in assembling this collection, and to all of the artists who have generously contributed work to it. The collection is an extraordinary addition to the museum’s permanent holdings, stands as a fitting tribute to Kirk Varnedoe and his enduring contribution to art history. Works from the Varnedoe Collection are on view in Complex Uncertainties: Artists in Postwar America, include Brigitte Lacombe’s 1999 photograph Kirk Varnedoe, which will be on view at the same time as Triple Candie’s exhibition.

Image Credit
Brigitte Lacombe (French, b. 1950), Kirk Varnedoe, Artist’s Proof, 1999, gelatin silver print, Gift of Brigitte Lacombe, 2006.16 © Brigitte Lacombe, Kirk Varnedoe Collection, Telfair Museums

About Telfair Museums:
Opened in 1886, Telfair Museums is the oldest public art museum in the South and features a world-class art collection in the heart of Savannah’s National Historic Landmark District. The museum encompasses three sites: the Jepson Center for the Arts, the Owens-Thomas House, and the Telfair Academy. For more information, call 912-790-8800 or visit


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