Jane Farver, a veteran curator and arts administrator who directed the MIT List Visual Arts Center for more than a decade, organized a pioneering show about the international history of conceptual art, and had recently helped manage the Prospect exhibition in New Orleans, died earlier this week in Venice, Italy. People who were close to her said the cause of death was a heart attack. She was 68.
Farver retired as director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center in 2011, after 12 years on the job, during which time she organized shows with numerous artists, including Mel Chin, Paul Pfeiffer, Runa Islam, Adel Abdessemed, Tavares Strachan, Yael Bartana, Isaac Julien, Sturtevant (with Udo Kittelmann, of the MMK Franfurt), and Yoko Ono, in collaboration with now-Guggenheim curator Alexandra Munroe and Fluxus specialist Jon Hendricks. During her tenure there, she was commissioner for Fred Wilson’s 2003 show at the U.S. pavilion at the Venice Biennale and managed an extensive display of public art on the museum’s campus. She also helped commission works from Sol LeWitt, Sarah Sze, Martin Boyce, Dan Graham, and others. The year she retired she served as artistic director of the Incheon Women Artists Biennale in Incheon, South Korea.
But Farver was perhaps best known for the 1999 exhibition “Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin 1950s–1980s,” a survey that investigated the global reach of the namesake movement whose study in the United States was long focused on North America and Europe. That show, which she curated with Luis Camnitzer and Rachel Weiss, along with a team of advisors, visited the Walker Art Center, the Miami Art Museum, the MIT List Visual Art Center, and the Queens Museum, where Farver was director of exhibitions from 1992 to 1999. In 2000, she was among the six curators of the Whitney Biennial.
Following her retirement from MIT, Farver had begun working as consulting director for U.S. Biennial, Inc., the organization that funds the Prospect triennial in New Orleans, which has historically been financially unstable, handling issues like fundraising, educational programs, and administrative aspects of the exhibition. She had recently been working on the catalogue for Joan Jonas’s show at the U.S. pavilion for this year’s Venice Biennale, which opens next week. In addition, she was visiting critic at Cornell University’s AAP NYC program and was consulting on the creation of a new art program at the University of Massachusetts at Lowell.
Before joining the Queens Museum, Farver had been director of the Lehman College Art Gallery at the City University of New York in the Bronx from 1990 to 1992, the director of the Tomoko Liguori Gallery in New York from 1988 to 1989, the assistant director and curator of the Alternative Museum in New York from 1985–87, for which she organized a 20-year Adrian Piper survey, and director of the Cleveland alternative space Spaces from 1981 to 1985. For the decade before that she was a photograph librarian at the Cleveland Museum of Art.
The list of boards that Farver served on, organizations she advised, and projects she juried is long. She earned her master’s in art history from Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, and her B.A. in English from Seton Hill College, in Greenburg, Pennsylvania.