Anna Katherine Brodbeck
Anna Katherine Brodbeck (ΦΒΚ, New York University) is currently The Nancy and Tim Hanley Assistant Curator of Contemporary Art at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Tell us a bit about your background.
My dad is a music history professor and my mom is nurse with a love of books and language, so I learned early on the pleasures of the arts and letters and lifelong learning. And my stepmom, who is also a music history professor, is from Mexico, where we visited every summer and I discovered the joy in immersing myself in other cultures. So it seems natural now that I decided to get my PhD in art history, specializing in Latin American art (although it was quite a journey at the time). I always thought I’d become a professor like many in my family, but I never shook my love of the contemplative spaces of museums as well as their public mission. Now I am a curator of contemporary art from around the globe, which allows me to address many of these passions at once.
When did you decide to pursue art history as a career and how did you know it was the right choice?
While in college at NYU, I decided to take a modern art history class because I had always loved going to museums and I was in the perfect place for it. I didn’t think that it would become my profession, because it just hadn’t occurred to me that something I loved to do so much on my own time could become my livelihood. But once I realized I could turn it into a career (with some perseverance), I never turned back.
Do you have a favorite piece or type of artwork?
I just completed work on a retrospective of Hélio Oiticica, a Brazilian contemporary artist who pioneered spectator participation and immersive installations. One of these installations includes hammocks so that visitors can lie back, listen to music, and watch as images flicker across the screen. Given the ever-quickening pace of modern life, I most value art that provides an opportunity to sit and reflect for a while.
If you could travel anywhere to study art, where would you go and why?
I have been fortunate to spend a lot of time in Central and South America researching the art of Latin America as well as in Europe, so I am looking forward to expanding beyond those regions. I studied Indo-Islamic Art extensively in undergrad and graduate school, and I got to visit the Golden Triangle (Jaipur-Agra-Delhi) as a tourist to see in person the many Mughal monuments that I had written on for my master’s thesis. Now I would love to visit sites of contemporary art production in the Middle East.
How has an arts and sciences education benefitted your career?
I chose a career that pretty closely mirrored my academic passions—I could not have become a curator without my strong background in cultural history and language. But an arts and sciences education can be the foundation of any career. As we know, it makes one an engaged and critical learner and actor; more importantly, it makes one a conscientious citizen.
Besides art, what are some of your passions and hobbies?
I love to travel, and I am so fortunate that my career brings plenty of opportunities to do so. But I also love to read and go for long walks. In fact, I don’t own a car, so I get to fold in my passion for walking into my daily commute!
What do you want to learn next?
I’ve spent a lot of time in Brazil, so I have become very interested in artists who incorporate imagery from the rainforest into their work. As a result, I have tried to learn as much as possible about biodiversity and the threats of climate change, and how art can play a role in increasing awareness of these issues.