Tell Me About Yourself: Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães
An Interview with Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães, Associate Curator at Guggenheim Museum Bilbao by Angelina Medina
Have you ever thought about working as a curator at a top art museum? As a part of my Tell Me About Yourself series, this month, I interviewed Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães, the associate curator of the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao at the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation based in New York, about her professional journey. I specifically wanted to speak with her because she is a Hunter alumnus and a woman of color, and I knew she would provide invaluable advice for Hunter students who are aspiring to obtain a career in the arts.
1. Can you tell me about your career path and what led you to your role as an Associate Curator at the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao?
I always strived towards hands-on experience and internships were vital to my developing career. When I graduated from Hunter with a degree in Art History, I asked myself what could I do with that degree? I didn’t know what path to take and I gravitated towards museum internships after speaking to several professors and career advisors at school. I applied to a twelve-month curatorial internship at The Museum of Modern Art and I was accepted. I was ecstatic at the possibility of learning what a museum career would be like and if it was something that I wanted to pursue. The internship was instrumental in my young career, and I did several more throughout the years, including a nine-month curatorial internship at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. These internships helped build my skills and expand my network, and eventually led me to a position as a curatorial assistant at The Museum of Modern Art, and later to Assistant Curator and then Associate Curator at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao and Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum and Foundation.
2. Do you believe there is a personality type that is well-suited for this kind of career? What do you wish you would have known when you started working in the art world?
I started as an undergrad student in fine arts at Hunter, which required art history courses, and I always found myself more excited about the latter. Somewhere midway I switched majors and solely dedicated myself to art history and took every course there was available. I simply could not get enough. I was an art major at Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, and I always thought I would become an artist. I never thought I would become a curator. As a first-generation college student from an immigrant family, I faced a lot of challenges in determining my career path. I remember feeling a lot of uncertainty when I graduated Hunter, but I am grateful to have pursued my passion for art history by staying true to myself.
3. What are the biggest rewards about the work that you do?
One of the biggest rewards is educating our audience about the history of art through exhibitions, publications, and public programming. My field of specialty is modern and contemporary Latin American art, and earlier this year I organized “Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental Field, 1948-1958” at the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. The last exhibition of this significant Brazilian artist in Spain was at Fundació Antoni Tàpies, Barcelona in 1997. For this exhibition, I chose to concentrate on Clark’s first ten years of artistic production, when she was experimenting between figuration and abstraction to articulate the compelling visual language that defined her mature production. I remember receiving notes from the general public thanking me for introducing them to Clark, an artist that they had not known about until this very exhibition. Opening up minds and educating the general audience is something that remains unforgettable.
Lygia Clark: Painting as an Experimental Field, 1948-1958 at Guggenheim Museum Bilbao. Curator: Geaninne Gutiérrez-Guimarães. Photo: Erika Ede
4. Can you tell me more about your participation in the Latin American Circle?
Part of working at a museum is building the collection through acquisitions of artworks. We often work with Affinity Groups composed of patrons who provide financial support for these acquisitions. The Latin American Circle is among the Guggenheim’s Affinity Groups, whose committee members are dedicated to supporting the acquisitions of works by Latin American artists for the museum’s permanent collection. As a curator, I work along with our director, chief curator, and curatorial staff to identify such works, which normally involves extensive research, studio visits, gallery visits, building relationships with artists and estates, negotiating prices and discounts, and understanding the impact of such acquisition into the collection.
5. Do you have any recommendations for students who are interested in pursuing a career in the arts?
Everybody’s journey is different. I always thought that we had one line to follow, but life comes at you in very different ways. Challenges come at you constantly. I am a woman of color who received her BA and MA from CUNY, and I have faced many challenges to get to where I am today. Our museums need to improve in diversity, equity and inclusion so that leadership positions reflect the many races and ethnicities of our general audience. I also believe that museum internships remain integral in the formation of young careers and that interns should reflect a diverse pool of candidates. I’m conscious of my role in a curatorial position and I pride myself in mentoring much like I was mentored when I was an intern. I will never forget what one of my former interns told me: that it was wonderful to see themselves in me, a person of color, in a sea of white. That statement had a huge impact on me. I would encourage all students to believe in themselves, to persevere, to face challenges head-on, and to stay firm in their beliefs. You will make a difference.