Featured Alumni: Jaime Schwartz '05CC, '12GSAS

Alumni Artist

Featured Alumni: Jaime Schwartz '05CC, '12GSAS

Visual Arts

We continue our Featured Alumni series with an interview with Jaime Schwartz '05CC, '12GSAS, who is the current Associate Director, Research & Exhibitions at David Zwirner. Our series highlights the many alumni whose time at Columbia led them to the arts world.

Jaime Schwartz is an art historian and curator based in New York. She holds an MA in Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies and a BA in Art History from Columbia University, New York. Recent curatorial projects include Private Matters at apexart, New York (2014), and It Follows at Torrance Shipman Gallery, Brooklyn (2015). From 2011-2014, she co-ran Court Square, a Long Island City-based gallery and project space devoted to supporting the production and exhibition of new work by emerging artists, writers, and curators. In 2011, she co-founded and edited the online academic journal Interventions (affiliated with Columbia University), a curatorial platform featuring essays, interviews, web-based art projects, and experimental investigations of the implicit cross-sections between these practices. Her writing has appeared in DIS magazine, Interventions, artcore journal, and, in 2012, she contributed an essay on the collaborative work of Ghada Amer and Reza Farkhondeh to the artists' exhibition catalogue The Other I. Jaime is currently Associate Director of Research & Exhibitions at David Zwirner, New York. She was previously Director of Tina Kim Gallery, New York. 

Q&A with Jaime Schwartz

You did your undergraduate and graduate degrees at Columbia. How has your experience at Columbia helped you to get to where you are today?

I always say I wound up working in a gallery by accident—which is true, it was never my original plan. When I arrived at Columbia as a freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to study so I took a little bit of everything. My sophomore year I took History of Photography with Benjamin Buchloh and loved it, and from there decided to be an art history major. I doubt I would have studied art history if I hadn’t been in New York, and at Columbia specifically.

When I graduated in 2005, I hadn’t planned to continue working in art and applied to a range of different jobs. I happened to get an offer to work at the front desk of an art gallery—I was hired by a Columbia alum actually. In my mind, I figured I would do that for a little while and then find a “real” job. That was eleven years ago.

Going to grad school at Columbia was a different, but equally important experience for me. After spending five years working at a commercial gallery, the Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial studies program helped me re-focus on my academic interest in art and think about what I specifically wanted to do in the art world, which ultimately led me to the job I have now.

While you were a student, did you take part in any clubs and activities on campus? What were some of your favorite Columbia memories?

When I was an undergrad, I was involved with Postcrypt Art Gallery in the basement of St. Paul’s and curated a few shows there. My favorite memory of Postcrypt is that there used to be an annual end of year big multi-disciplinary exhibition called Collision and my senior year, I worked on it with two of my classmates. At the last minute, the space that we were supposed to use (an empty warehouse on West 125th Street) fell through, so instead of cancelling the exhibition, we threw it guerilla-style in the East Campus dorm. We spent a day hanging works in the hallways and in peoples’ suites and that night we threw a building-wide party that lasted until eventually campus security cleared us out.

As a graduate student, I was more involved with the art history department directly, and one thing I’m especially proud of is co-founding Interventions, an online academic journal affiliated with the MA in Modern Art: Critical and Curatorial Studies program. We took that work very seriously and I think it came through in the quality of the articles published.

There are fewer jobs in the gallery world than there are art history majors. What career advice do you have for our new graduates looking to break into this field?

First, do not turn down any opportunities. A lot of people are very focused on trying to work at a major museum or big gallery. I started off working at a small gallery, which was a great experience because I really was able to learn how the business runs from top to bottom. Over the course of a few years I did almost every job there from working with artists, shipping and insurance, sales, and even to helping install artwork. I am still benefitting from all of that today.

Secondly, the art world is all about connections. I did a lot of internships, both as an undergrad and even during grad school when I already had substantial work experience. I was lucky to meet some amazing mentors who have helped me land where I am today, many of whom I’m still in touch with today.

Can you tell us more about your current role as Associate Director, Research & Exhibitions at David Zwirner? What is a typical day like for you?

I usually describe my job at the gallery as an in-house art historian, which is a rare thing in the commercial gallery world. I feel very fortunate to have a job that combines my work experience with my academic studies and also to work in a place that really values art historical scholarship. The gallery world is very fast paced, so a typical day for me could include anything from researching individual artworks, writing press releases, editing catalogue essays, to helping organize exhibitions, among a range of other things.

What are you currently working on at David Zwirner that you can share with us?  

I am currently co-curating an exhibition called People Who Work Here with my colleague in the research department Marina Gluckman that I’m really excited about. The show is just what it sounds like—an exhibition of work by artists who are on staff at the gallery. The first iteration of the show was in 2012 and included 17 artists. This time around we have more than 30. Marina and I have done studio visits and had conversations with every artist who is in the show, which has been a lot of work, but also an amazing opportunity to get to know our co-workers in this context and see what they are doing after they leave the gallery and on their own time. There are some incredibly talented people who work here, which sometimes makes me question what I am doing with my weekends and free time! All of the participating artists have been so enthusiastic and supportive and I think it’s fostered a really nice sense of community and connection amongst the gallery staff.

The show opens on June 30th with an opening reception from 6-8 PM – all are welcome!

The gallery is also gearing up for some wonderful art historical shows this fall, including solo exhibitions of work by Fred Sandback and Josef Albers, which I am looking forward to as well.  

For more information about People Who Work Here, visit the event page.