News Archive 2021

Zaena Sheehan wins AKO curatorial award 2020

5 Feb 2021

The Courtauld is pleased to announce that the fourth AKO Curatorial Award, offered to graduates of The Courtauld MA Curating the Arts Museum programme (2019/20), has been awarded to Zaena Sheehan, with a proposal titled Enchanted Visions: Nordic Art and Occulture. The award is worth £4,000. Two runners-up awards of £1,000 each were awarded to Anna Duch Gimenez for her proposal Helhesten: A Story of Nordic Resistance and Anastasia Pineschi for her proposal Distance.

The award was conceived to support and encourage the development of curatorial skills among recent graduates, and it follows a competition for exhibition proposals based on the Nordic modernist works in the Tangen Collection. This year’s entries were judged by Martin Caiger-Smith, Head of the MA Curating the Art Museum; Dr Barnaby Wright, Deputy Director of The Courtauld Gallery; Trude Gomnæs Ugelstad, Artistic Director of Sørlandets Kunstmuseum and Beate Mjaaland of the AKO Art Foundation.

Zaena Sheehan’s winning proposal examines the relationship between Nordic art and ‘occulture’. The term is used to define belief systems that question the supposed rationality of modern life, and focuses on how non-secular meanings emerge and are shared among individuals and communities. The proposal draws on the strong holdings of works across all Nordic countries in the early and mid-20th century in the Tangen Collection that demonstrate an interest in abstraction, expressionism and surrealism – interests shared throughout Europe and beyond.

The artists proposed for the exhibition include the Swedish abstract painter Nell Walden, the Danish surrealists Vilhelm Bjerke-Petersen and Ejler Bille and sculptor Sonja Ferlov-Mancoba. Zaena Sheehan will work with curators from the Sørlandets Kunstmuseum (soon to be renamed Kunstsilo) in Kristiansand to develop the proposal for an exhibition that will be mounted at the museum in Autumn 2021.

The jurors commended the proposal highly for the ways in which it drew on important strengths of the collection in a range of media with art historical rigour and flair, to advance a strong, original and timely concept.

Trude Gomnæs Ugelstad commented: “In this, the Award’s fourth year, we continue to be impressed at the quality of the proposals, and the ways in which these young curators find new directions and fresh meaning in the collections. Zaena Sheehan’s proposal is an exciting and appropriate theme for our audience at a time when our plans for a new home for the Tangen collection in Kristiansand are soon to reach fruition.”

The Courtauld’s MA Curating the Art Museum programme is an excellent entry point for a career in museums and galleries. The programme culminates in a collaborative exhibition project, and the mounting of a public exhibition and related public events. The 2019/20 exhibition, ‘Unquiet Moments: Capturing the everyday’ celebrates the recording of everyday life through the making of art.