An Eye for Exhibiting
As assistant director of exhibitions at the Harvard Art Museums, Elie Glyn 08 FD appreciates the disciplined work habits he learned at RISD. photo by R. Leopoldina Torres © President and Fellows of Harvard College
Elie Glyn 08 FD is putting his expertise as a furniture designer to good use at the Harvard Art Museums, where he has taken on the newly created role of assistant director of exhibitions. Working closely with museum curators, he oversees a team of preparators, designing the layout of each exhibition and the casework used to display 3D artworks.
“Part of my role is to be a steward of the museum’s visual standards,” says Glyn, “applying them creatively to unique exhibitions, such as our newest: Fernando Bryce: The Book of Needs.” The Bryce installation features 81 ink-on-paper drawings by the Peruvian artist, reconstructing pages from early issues of the UNESCO Courier, an international publication that has focused on literacy, human rights and the environment since its inception in 1948.
Glyn says that his background in furniture design continues to come in handy in his new role. “If I’m doing my job right,” he notes, “visitors are unaware of what’s happening inside the pedestal, beneath the display deck.” And although he’s not building things with his own hands these days, Glyn notes that his RISD education has instilled in him the disciplined work habits and precision required to prepare the detailed design drawings and documentation used to produce museum-quality presentations. “RISD also requires students to stand up and speak about their work in the face of scrutiny,” he adds, “which is a useful skill to bring to an institution like an art museum.”
Before joining the team at Harvard, Glyn worked as an exhibition designer at the Getty Museum in Los Angeles, where he helped to mount a wide variety of shows, including Power and Pathos: Bronze Sculpture of the Hellenistic World and Robert Mapplethorpe: The Perfect Medium. Although exhibition layout is typically reliant on digital drafting and modeling tools, he and his colleagues sometimes worked with 1/12 scale models of special exhibitions galleries, which helped them to visualize and refine the layout of each show.
The move to Harvard has been fairly seamless, says Glyn, in that “museum practices and standards are increasingly universal.” He’s enjoying working with the university museum’s diverse collection and is looking forward to showcasing recently acquired work in the coming year by renowned contemporary artist Nam June Paik as well as watercolors by the late, great Winslow Homer.
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