Ingrid Schaffner is an American curator, art critic, writer, and educator, specializing in contemporary art. She is currently at work on the 57th Carnegie International (Ci18), which will open at the Carnegie Museum of Art,
Pittsburgh, in fall 2018.

Known for the breadth of her art historical knowledge and her exceptional collaborations with artists such as Richard Artschwager, Barry LeVa, Karen Kilimnik, Maira Kalman, and Anne Tyng, Schaffner’s work often coalesces around themes of archiving and collecting, photography, feminism, and alternate modernisms—especially Surrealism. Her many significant monographic and thematic exhibitions have brought attention to under-recognized artists and little-explored themes and practices in the art world. From 2000 to 2015, Schaffner directed the exhibition program at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) at the University of Pennsylvania, one of the leading museums dedicated to exhibiting the innovative art of our time.



Schaffner was born in Pittsburgh, grew up in Los Gatos, California, and attended Mount Holyoke College. She then moved to New York City to attend the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program, where she was a Helena Rubinstein Curatorial Fellow, and New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts, where she received a master’s degree in art history. As an independent curator and writer, Schaffner worked with artists, curators, and writers such as Richard Artschwager, Nancy Rosen, and Honor Moore on archiving and research projects, and launched the journal Pink with Donna Ghelerter. She wrote numerous reviews and features for Artforum, Art in America, Parkett, and Frieze, and was a contributor to exhibition catalogues on the work of Marlene Dumas, Josiah McElheny, and Bruce Nauman.

After organizing shows for The Drawing Center, Swiss Institute, Haus der Kunst (Munich), Independent Curators International, White Columns, Hayward Gallery (London), the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art, and elsewhere, Schaffner was invited by then-director Claudia Gould to reshape and oversee ICA’s curatorial department.



As Chief Curator, Schaffner directed the curatorial program at ICA from 2000-2015, where she organized many significant monographic and thematic exhibitions. In keeping with ICA’s history, her work brought attention to under-recognized artists or little-explored themes and practices in the art world. These exhibitions include: Polly Apfelbaum; The Big Nothing; Trials and Turbulence: Pepón Osorio, An Artist in Residence at DHS; The Photogenic; Barry LeVa, Accumulated Vision; Karen Kilimnik; The Puppet Show; Dirt on Delight: Impulses That Form Clay; Maira Kalman: Various Illuminations (of a Crazy World); Anne Tyng: Inhabiting Geometry; Queer Voice, and Jason Rhoades, Four Roads. Schaffer’s work has been recognized with awards from the International Art Critics Association (AICA) and grants from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts, and her shows have traveled to museums including: the Aspen Museum of Art, the BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art (UK), the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston, and the Walker Art Center.

During her tenure at ICA, Schaffner has helped triple the museum’s number of yearly exhibitions while increasing the rigor, diversity, and popular appeal of its program. She has assembled a stellar curatorial team by creating a culture that supports ambitious curators in the pursuit of their particular passions. The scope of ICA’s program as shaped by Schaffner can be readily sampled by such past and forthcoming shows as: Strange Messenger: The Work of Patti Smith; Make Your Own Life: Artists in and Out of Cologne; Locally Localized Gravity; Pathways to Unknown Worlds: Sun Ra, El Saturn & Chicago’s Afro-Futurist Underground, 1954-1968; “That’s How We Escaped”: Reflections on Warhol; Jeremy Deller: Joy in People; Karla Black; Dear Nemesis: Nicole Eisenman 1993-2013; Barbara Kasten: Stages; Christopher Knowles: In a Word, and The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now. She has facilitated artists as curators, with exhibitions by Kara Walker, Virgil Marti, and Christian Marclay, as well as major new commissions by Alex Da Corte, Trenton Doyle Hancock, Arturo Herrera, Kimowan McLain, Amy Sillman, and Zoe Strauss.

Schaffner’s curatorial leadership and commitment to curatorial craft at every level of exhibition-making—from installation and didactics to programs and publications—took most comprehensive form in 2014 with ICA@50: Pleasing Artists and Publics Since 1963. This intensive, archive-based, curatorial experiment called for artists, curators, writers, and performers to create fifty new projects and publications based on ICA’s history, bringing the museum’s past into an unfolding present. ICA@50 was a generative model of curating in action and affirmed ICA’s identity as a research institution dedicated to the creative study of contemporary art and intrepid exploration of the unknown.



The author of over 20 books and nearly 200 articles, reviews, and features, Schaffner has written extensively on contemporary art and curatorial practice. Her writings include an essay on “Wall Text” in Questions of Practice: What Makes a Great Exhibition? (Philadelphia Exhibitions Initiative/Reaktion Books); a monograph on Salvador Dali’s Dream of Venus: The Surrealist Funhouse from the 1939 World’s Fair (Princeton Architectural Press); and Julien Levy: Portrait of an Art Gallery (MIT Press). Her belief that writing about art should be lively and engaging as well as acutely researched informs all her work, including her numerous exhibition catalogues: Deep Storage: Collecting, Storing, and Archiving in Art; Jess: To and From the Printed Page; Gloria: Another Look at Feminist Art of the 70s and Chocolate!, among many other titles. To Abrams “Essentials” series she contributed small scale monographs on Joseph Cornell, Vincent van Gogh, Henri Matisse, Man Ray, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol.



Schaffner’s annual lecture, “What Is Contemporary?”, exploring themes and trends in recent art, draws large enthusiastic audiences every year. She travels widely to lecture, serve as a guest critic, and participate in symposia at institutions including the Rhode Island School of Design, NYU, and the University of Texas at Austin.

She was instrumental in developing two curricular collaborations between ICA and the University of Pennsylvania’s departments of Art History and English, each an intensive year-long seminar. In one, students organize a new show based on primary research of a past ICA exhibition. In the second, working with poet Kenneth Goldsmith, they immerse themselves in a current ICA exhibition and create a publication of writings through contemporary art.

She has taught seminars on Andy Warhol and on Post-minimalism at the University of Pennsylvania, and on research methodology at Christie’s Education. She currently serves on the Graduate Advisory Committee of the Bard Center Curatorial Studies.

See Schaffner’s full vitae and headshot (photo credit: Erin Leland).