Papers of critic and curator Kirk Varnedoe include student papers and lecture notes, research files for exhibitions and publications,
typescripts and audio tapes of lectures, and a small amount of material related to his position at the Museum of Modern Art
in New York.
Kirk Varnedoe was born in Savannah, Georgia in 1946 to a wealthy and distinguished Southern family. He attended Williams College,
where he began studying studio art, but soon switched to art history under the influence of Professor Lane Faison. He also
played college football and, after graduating, returned to coach the football team and teach art history for a year. He then
earned a Ph.D. at Stanford under Rodin scholar Albert Elsen, with whom he collaborated on an exhibition and catalog about
the profusion of drawings falsely attributed to Rodin. From 1974 to 1988 he taught first at Columbia University and then at
the Institute of Fine Arts, while also curating exhibitions on Scandinavian painting, Gustave Caillebotte, turn-of-the century
Vienna, and primitivism in Modern Art. From 1988 to 2002 he was the curator of painting and sculpture at the Museum of Modern
Art, New York. His exhibitions there, beginning with
High and Low: Modern Art and Popular Culture, and ending with a major retrospective on Jackson Pollock, attempted to acquaint the museum-going public with art historical
narratives that artists and academics had long accepted. These efforts, together with Varnedoe's Artist Choice series, which
engaged contemporary artists to organize exhibitions of work from the permanent collection, helped move the museum into a
less canonical and more dynamic presentation of modern art.