ArtBreak: A Curator Q&A

/ Interviews - Staff Updates

Anne Forschler-Tarrasch, Ph.D. Senior Curator and Marguerite Jones Harbert and John M. Harbert III Curator of Decorative Arts. Read more about Anne here:
Anne Forschler Tarrasch PhD Chief Curator and Marguerite Jones Harbert and John M Harbert III Curator of Decorative Arts Read more about Anne here httpbitly1UPClkA

Don’t spend tomorrow’s lunch break at your desk! Instead, join us in the galleries for an ArtBreak with Chief Curator and Curator of Decorative Arts Anne Forschler-Tarrasch. She’ll discuss the BMA’s Gustav Lamprecht Collection of Central European cast iron, one of the largest collections in the world and the only collection of its kind in the United States. Who better to explore this collection with than the expert herself?

Anne joined the BMA in 1999 as the Curator of Decorative Arts and became Senior Curator in 2013. She has focused her education on European decorative arts of the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, developing a particular interest in ceramics and decorative cast iron. In 2009, Anne published an extensive catalogue of the Museum’s collection of European cast iron, so when we say she’s an expert, we’ve got the book to back it up.

If you want to learn more about the collection, you will just have to join us tomorrow, but if you want to know more about the curator, we’ve got you covered in this Q&A.

Birmingham Museum of Art: Did you always know you wanted to be a curator? What inspired you to pursue this career?

Anne Forschler: No, I was an anthropology undergraduate at UCLA and I thought I would go to graduate school in anthropology (I loved it) and do something in the field of cultural anthropology. Then I moved to Berlin, Germany right after graduation and took some time off. While there I visited a lot of museums and my favorite was the Decorative Arts Museum, which is full of fantastic objects. I loved the objects and the history, and I really loved being in museums. Finally, one day it dawned on me that working with the decorative arts can be very anthropological. I realized that, as with pre-historic objects, you can approach historical objects in a very anthropological way. They can tell us a lot about the culture that created them. And, no field work involved! That sealed it.

BMA: What is your favorite part of the job?

AF: My favorite part of the job is working with the actual objects, holding them, studying them, doing research and documenting them. I love a great object record. 

BMA: Why decorative arts?

AF: This stems from my love of anthropology, I think, and actually, the thing I loved most about my studies at UCLA was trying to figure out and understand the iconography of Pre-Columbian ceramics. Likewise, during graduate school, I loved working with Italian Renaissance istoriato majolica, ceramics painted with imagery that tells a story. I don’t know why I didn’t focus on Italian decorative arts. Probably because I spoke German and not Italian!

BMA: Do you have a favorite collection item?

AF: That’s a tough one because it changes regularly. But, there are some objects that I never tire of looking at. One of those is Wedgwood’s black basalt figure of Somnus, one of the most beautiful pieces of black basalt I’ve seen. Another is Albert Bierstadt’s Looking Down Yosemite Valley, probably because it’s an image of my home state California!

BMA: In your opinion, why is it important for us to study and experience art?

AF: In this day and age, studying art history is really a luxury. It’s crucial that we are all exposed to some aspect of art, either in grade school or high school, or as one of those dreaded college general ed requirements. Art is beautiful. It is inspiring and uplifting. It is controversial and makes us angry. It brings us joy.  And, it can bring us to tears. Art makes us human and it helps us understand the human race.

ArtBreak: Gustav Lamprecht Collection of Central European Cast Iron
Tuesday, October 18, 2016