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Art World Up and Comer

Meet Stuart Comer, the curator who’s landed two of the art industry’s most coveted gigs (it’s no wonder he’s not getting any sleep)

When Stuart Comer left London last year for New York, he didn’t relocate for a new job—he relocated for two. The former film curator at the Tate Modern signed on to be the Museum of Modern Art’s chief curator of media and performance art as well as part of the team curating the Whitney Museum of American Art’s 2014 Biennial. Neither of these could be considered a small job.

“I’ve been trying to find a new term for multitasking,” Comer says over a much-needed coffee at the Modern’s cafe, “because what I’m doing goes far beyond that.”

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At the Whitney Biennial, which runs from March through May, Comer’s been tasked (along with co-curators Anthony Elms and Michelle Grabner) with taking the pulse of the contemporary art scene—though he can’t say just yet what he’s discovered.

“The best shows come out of the work, so it doesn’t make sense to predetermine too many things,” he says when he’s asked about what the closely watched exhibition might contain. “But there’s a theme coming out of it I hadn’t expected: man and nature in a moment of crisis. An ecological gothic, if you will.”

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His new curatorial position at MoMA, meanwhile, allows the Connecticut native to utilize an alternate set of skills.

“They’re very different roles,” he says. “A biennial is not about assessing history in the same way as it’s about taking the temperature of the moment. My role at MoMA will involve building the collection and asking questions about what it means to collect performance. The Biennial is a flash point, but the job at MoMA is an evolving process.”

Needless to say, holding two such prestigious and demanding positions has made Comer a highly visible part of the art establishment—albeit one with little time for pursuits outside of work.

And how’s he holding up so far? “I try to sleep,” he says, “but it’s not working too well.”

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MORE:

Portrait of a Self-Taught Art Collector
Drew Barrymore’s Very First Piece of Art
Inside Faith Kates’ Art-Filled Apartment

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