art person
Professional Growth in a Major Museum:
Elena Korotkikh's Experience

Text: Sasha Souther, PhD
The greatest challenge that any exhibition curator may face is working for a world-known institution. That means a lot – curating international projects worldwide, working with renowned professionals in the sphere, and, sometimes, dealing with internal museum strategies that do not fulfill all of your wishes. However, that type of curatorial tasks still allows professionals to develop and become well-known community members.
Elena Korotkikh, art historian, curator,
MA, МВА, Yale Visiting Scholar Award winner
After graduating from the History Faculty, Art History Department of Lomonosov Moscow State University (MSU), Korotkikh gained her Master's Degree at the University of Warwick. It was in the UK where she started her museum career. Six months of an intensive internship at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) were followed by another opportunity – an internship at Sotheby's Impressionist and Modern Art department. There, but particularly at the V&A, Elena got acquainted with the invaluable introduction to the backstage of the museum world and wanted to work as a curator ever since.

Working at the Pushkin Museum of Fine Arts became a breakthrough in Elena Korotkikh's art career. After becoming a member of this institution and joining the Department of New Western Art (19th and 20th Centuries European and American Art), Korotkikh dealt with the most established art pieces dating back to the 17th century. She participated as assistant curator and then co-curator in the leading exhibition projects of the decade, from the Egon Schiele anniversary exhibition (in partnership with Albertina Museum, Vienna) and 'Thomas Gainsborough' (in partnership with Gainsborough's House Museum, Sudbury, Suffolk; National Gallery, London; Victoria and Albert Museum, London and others) to showcasing established contemporary art collections. Working in such an environment taught her to adopt research habits and become open-minded about all kinds of art. "There is no 'I do not like this period' in such institution as Pushkin Museum, but there is 'I do not know enough to fully admire this period,'" Korotkikh mentioned at 'The Morozov Collection' opening in Moscow.
'Thomas Gainsborough' exhibition set-up
If we look closely at what she has done for exhibitions like 'Fondation Louis Vuitton. Selected Works' or 'Not Painting', we will understand how carefully Elena navigated all the processes as a co-curator. She was responsible for storytelling and strategy, documentation, selection of works, setting the exhibit design, and promotion. Furthermore, Elena was in charge of all international collaborations, English language guides, and reading materials. Choosing her for this job was not a result of random selection. The Museum Directors were always interested in handing these responsibilities only to those curators who gained their complete trust and demonstrated themselves as outstanding professionals.
"Not Painting" installation view
"Fondation Louis Vuitton" set-up process
Of course, such a career always has its pivotal point, where a young professional transitions into their mature state. For Korotkikh, it became the prize-winning 'Odd Convergences', where she was an essential part of the curatorial group headed by Jean-Hubert Martin. This show became the greatest challenge of all. Elena had to navigate two significant elements: 1) what the curators want and 2) how to manage it. These critical strategic pieces helped the show succeed. A great number of private and museum collections were involved in the show. For Korotkikh, the exhibition became a window of opportunity for her to master her profession at a new level internationally.
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