Press Room

Georgia Museum of Art adds Parker Curator of Russian Art

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Following several high-profile exhibitions of Russian art, the Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia has received a gift from William Parker to establish the position of Parker Curator of Russian Art. The position has been filled by Asen Kirin, professor of art history at UGA’s Lamar Dodd School of Art. Kirin will continue to teach at the art school, but he will also devote time to researching the museum’s growing collection of Russian art, publishing the results and developing special exhibitions, lectures, symposia and other educational events.

The gift includes funds to support the collection, which Parker assembled over more than four decades and includes more than 2,200 separate objects. They range from paintings to sculptures, prints, textiles, photographs, silver, jewelry, glass, military artifacts, medals, badges and orders of chivalry. Many of them were presentation gifts from the Romanov dynasty of Russian rulers to their subjects, and all of them feature layers of complex meaning in their imagery. Kirin has focused his research so far on unpacking these meanings and on making cross-disciplinary connections that help illuminate life in imperial Russia. He has worked with the UGA College of Veterinary Medicine, for example, to X-ray one painting in a successful attempt to confirm the signature of the artist.

Kirin trained in Sofia, Bulgaria, and at Moscow University in Slavic languages and literatures before pursuing a master of arts from Vanderbilt University and a doctoral degree from Princeton University, in the history of art and architecture. He has received two fellowships from Dumbarton Oaks/Harvard University and teaches courses at the Lamar Dodd School of Art in late antique, Byzantine and Russian art and architecture.

He has published on post-Byzantine frescoes and their inscriptions, on late antique architecture and urbanism and on the interplay of late Byzantine architecture, mural painting and natural landscape. He has also organized several exhibitions at the museum, each of which had an accompanying publication: “Sacred Art, Secular Context. Objects of Art from the Byzantine
Collection of Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, D.C., Accompanied by American Paintings from the Collection of Mildred and Robert Woods Bliss” in 2005, “Exuberance of Meaning: The Art Patronage of Catherine the Great (1762 – 1796)” in 2013 (which traveled to Hillwood Estate, Museum and Garden in 2014), “A Year on the Hill: Work by Jim Fiscus and Chris Bilheimer” in 2014 and 2015 and “Gifts and Prayers: The Romanovs and Their Subjects” in 2016 (which traveled to the Museum of Russian Art, in Minneapolis-St. Paul). These exhibitions and catalogues have received awards including the Eric Hoffer Book Award (grand prize shortlist), an honorable mention in the Foreword Reviews’ IndieFab Book of the Year Awards, the Mary Ellen LoPresti Award from the Art Librarians Society of North America Southeast Chapter and a gold award in the Southeastern Museums Conference CurCom Exhibition Competition.

Kirin has also organized exhibitions elsewhere, including at the Lamar Dodd School of Art and the Madison-Morgan Cultural Center, in Madison, Georgia. He is currently working on the exhibition “The Reluctant Autocrat: Tsar Nicholas II,” which will open in December at the Georgia Museum of Art and involves many objects from the Parker Collection that have not previously been displayed. Kirin has organized international conferences at the University of Georgia and presented scholarly lectures at wide-ranging institutions including George Washington University, the University of Florida, the University of Vienna, Princeton University and Harvard University. He speaks or reads a wide variety of languages, including Bulgarian, English, Russian, Serbian, Croatian, Macedonian, Modern and Ancient Greek, French, German, Polish, Czech, Slovak, Old Slavonic and Latin, all of which are useful in the study of imperial Russian art.

In addition to organizing exhibitions and publishing research, Kirin will oversee all aspects of the collection’s stewardship, including fundraising, cataloguing, restoration and conservation, as well as the systematizing of the Parker Collection Reference Library and archiving of several hundred historic documents.  

Dr. William Underwood Eiland, director of the museum, said, “With this remarkable endowment and certainly with the expertise of Professor Kirin as the Parker Curator, the Georgia Museum of Art has embarked on an initiative that has already and will continue to place the museum and university in the upper echelon of institutions for the study of Russian art, architecture and history.”

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Writer: Hillary Brown, hazbrown@uga.edu
Contact: Michael Lachowski, 706-542-9078, mlachow@uga.edu

Museum Information
Partial support for the exhibitions and programs at the Georgia Museum of Art is provided by the Georgia Council for the Arts through the appropriations of the Georgia General Assembly. The Georgia Council for the Arts also receives support from its partner agency, the National Endowment for the Arts. Individuals, foundations and corporations provide additional museum support through their gifts to the University of Georgia Foundation. The Georgia Museum of Art is located in the Performing and Visual Arts Complex on the East Campus of the University of Georgia. The address is 90 Carlton Street, University of Georgia, Athens, Ga. 30602-1502. For more information, including hours, see http://www.georgiamuseum.org or call 706-542-4662.

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