October 11, 2006
by Canadian Architect
Joseph Rosa, the John H. Bryan Curator of Architecture and Design at the Art Institute of Chicago, announced the appointment of Zo Ryan as the Neville Bryan Curator of Design, effective October 31, 2006. The addition of Ms. Ryan to the staff of the Art Institute marks the museum’s commitment to the expansion of the department to include modern and contemporary design, which occurred in 2005.
“When I was hired to expand on the Architecture department’s mission to include design and hire its first curator, Zo was the first person that came to mind,” said Mr. Rosa. “She is very well respected in the world of contemporary design. Her exhibitions, writings, and presence in the community as well as her enthusiasm for good design have contributed greatly to the further understanding of how aesthetics of design and methods of fabrication have evolved since mid-century. I am thrilled to have Zo join our department at this very special time as we start building our collection, conceiving exhibitions and future programming. I would also like to acknowledge the generosity of the Bryans-who have made our new Neville Bryan Curator of Design position possible.”
Ryan’s background is grounded in design. She has actively searched out new innovations and emerging talent as well as finding new ways to present and explain the work of established designers. In her capacity as a curator, she often bridges design disciplines by incorporating work from furniture, industrial, textile, and graphic designers, among others. In addition to organizing exhibitions, Ryan is also a keen writer and have researched and written articles for publications including Blueprint, Monument, Contemporary, Architectural Record, RIBA Journal, Log and The Architect’s Newspaper.
Since 2000, Zo Ryan has held the senior curatorial position at the Van Alen Institute, a New York-based, non-profit public art and architecture organization committed to improving the design of the public realm. She curates exhibitions for the Institute and also serves as the editor of the Van Alen Report, the Institute’s quarterly journal. Prior to her position at the VAI, she was a curatorial assistant in the Architecture and Design Department of the Museum of Modern Art, New York and worked on Projects 66: Campana/Ingo Maurer (November 27, 1998-January 19, 1999) which helped to raise the profile of furniture designers Fernando and Humberto Campana in the States. Before that she worked in the Department of Prints, Drawings and Paintings at the Victoria & Albert Museum on the exhibition The Power of the Poster (April 2-July 26, 1998).
Ryan has amassed a distinguished record of curated exhibitions. In fall 2001, Ryan co-curated the exhibition Renewing, Rebuilding, Remembering (February 12-July 9, 2002), which travelled to The Lighthouse in Glasgow. Ryan co-edited the accompanying publication Information Exchange: How Cities Renew, Rebuild and Remember, published in November 2002 with Distributed Art Publishers. Among the Institute projects she has managed include the October 2005 conference “The Politics of Design Competitions” organized with Princeton University, and the April 2002 conference “Urban Design: Practices, Pedagogies, and Premises,” organized with Columbia and Harvard Universities.
In 2003, she mounted OPEN: new designs for public space (June 11-October 31, 2003), an exhibition exploring innovative architecture, landscape, and urban design from cities across the globe, by renowned designers. Ryan co-edited the accompanying publication, distributed by Princeton Architectural Press (PAP).
In 2004, she curated VARIABLE CITY: Fox Square (September 28- December 10, 2004), an exhibition of work by visual artist Julia Mandle and Ariel Krasnow, an urban designer, which explored the unique hybrid of outdoor site-specific performance and urban design research.
Most recently, Ryan organized an exhibition titled The Good Life: New Public Spaces For Recreation that explores how public spaces are being redesigned to meet the needs of 21st-century recreation and leisure. She edited the accompanying catalogue, distributed by PAP. Ryan is also co-editing Coney Island: The Parachute Pavilion Competition to be published in spring 2007 by PAP.
Ryan received her Master’s degree in art history from Hunter College, New York. She studied at the University of Sussex and the University of Amsterdam and received a BA in Art History and English and American Studies. Ryan is a member of the New Leadership Associates of ArtTable. She has also lectured extensively in the design arts and has participated on a number of juries.