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Jane Farver, former director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center, dies

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Jane Farver, former director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center
Jane Farver, former director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center

Jane Farver, a renowned art curator and administrator and the former director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center, passed away suddenly on April 29. Farver was in Venice, Italy, acting as the editor for the catalog being produced to support the List’s presentation of new work by artist Joan Jonas for the U.S. Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, opening later this week.

Throughout the course of her distinguished 12-year tenure as director of the List (1999-2011), Farver contributed greatly to the vibrant life of the arts community on the MIT campus, in Boston and internationally. Her directorship was distinguished by the List’s presentation of internationally acclaimed contemporary art exhibitions and a remarkable increase in the commissioning of major public artworks throughout the campus. 

“On behalf of the entire List community, I would like to express my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Jane Farver,” said Paul Ha, director of the List Visual Arts Center. “Her impact in the contemporary art world is formidable and, and we will forever be thankful for her contribution. We mourn the sudden loss of our dear friend and colleague and are incredibly grateful for all that Jane gave to our community during her long and distinguished career.”

During her time at the List, Farver collaborated with a diverse range of artists and organized groundbreaking exhibitions, including solo exhibitions and projects by Mel Chin, Michael Joo, Paul Pfeiffer, Runa Islam, Kimsooja, John Coplans, Adel Abdessemed, and Tavares Strachan. She also organized a number of group exhibitions, often with colleagues at MIT and other leading cultural institutions, including the landmark exhibition, "Global Conceptualism: Points of Origin, 1950s-1980s," and "Sensorium: Parts I & 2 – Embodied Experience, Technology, and Contemporary Art." She assembled a dedicated staff of museum professionals at the List and also brought in distinguished outside curators and exhibitions, such as "Cameron Jamie," organized by Philippe Vergne of the Walker Art Center, and "Y E S Yoko Ono," organized by Alexandra Munroe with Fluxus scholar Jon Hendricks.

Philip S. Khoury, MIT associate provost and the Ford International Professor of History, said, “On behalf of MIT, we share our condolences with Jane’s family and friends. As Jane’s longtime colleagues and friends, we mourn the loss of a stalwart advocate for the arts and will forever be grateful for all that she contributed to the MIT community.”

Under her leadership, the List organized presentations for two international art biennials, including artist Paul Pfeiffer’s project as the U.S. representative for the 9th Cairo Biennial in 2003, an exhibition that traveled to Athens for the 2004 Olympic Games, and artist Fred Wilson’s exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion of the 50th Venice Biennale in 2003, on which Kathleen Goncharov was the commissioner. Farver also served as one of six curators to organize the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 2000 Biennial.

In addition to organizing major exhibitions at the List and around the world, Farver oversaw MIT’s celebrated Percent-for-Art program, which under her stewardship added more than 10 major works to the campus, such as Cai Guo-Qiang’s "Ring Stone" (2010) outside of the Sloan School building; Anish Kapoor’s "Non-Object (Plane)" (2010), a mirrored, stainless-steel work inside the Frank Gehry-designated Stata Center; Sol LeWitt’s "Bars of Colors within Squares (MIT)" (2007), a vibrantly colored floor for the 5,500 square foot U-shaped atrium of the Green Center for Physics (Building 6C); and Sarah Sze’s "Blue Poles" (2006) running up the façade of the Sidney Pacific Graduate Dormitory. Farver also revitalized the List’s artist residency program, offering artists the opportunity to work with MIT’s remarkable students, faculty, and staff. Through the residency program, several artists each year, including Cai Guo-Qiang, Tavares Strachan, Adel Abdessemed, and Matthew Day Jackson, came to campus to seek new insights and push the boundaries of their practices.

Following her retirement from the List in 2011, Farver returned to New York and worked as an independent curator, recently serving as a consulting director for U.S. Biennial, Inc., the organization that funds the Prospect triennial in New Orleans. She was also a 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. Farver was enlisted to edit the catalogue for artist Joan Jonas’s upcoming exhibition for the U.S. Pavilion, titled "They Come to Us without A Word" by Paul Ha.

Before coming to the List, Farver served as the director of exhibitions at the Queens Museum of Art in New York (1992-1999); director of Lehman College Art Gallery at the City University of New York (1989-1992); director of the Tomoko Liguori Gallery (1987-89); and director/curator at the Alternative Museum (1985-87). Before moving to New York in 1985, Farver was director of Spaces Gallery in Cleveland and was a photo librarian at the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Farver is survived by her husband John L. Moore, her brother Richard Farver of Corry, Pennsylvania; her sister Mary Terry of Seattle, Washington; as well as extended family including stepchildren, nieces, nephews, and grandchildren.

Plans for a memorial service are forthcoming.

Press Mentions

Boston Globe

Jane Farver, former director of the MIT List Visual Arts Center, died on April 29. Farver, who led the List for 12 years, brought about “an increase in the commissioning of major public artworks across campus.”

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