Mary Anne Staniszewski

Associate Professor, Arts

Mary Anne Staniszewski, Associate Professor, 
Department of Arts, Ph.D., Art History, Graduate Center, City University of New York, investigates culture, art, and media in relation to political and social perspectives. Her work takes the form of writing, editing, collaborative curatorial practices, and, more frequently in the past, collaborative artists projects. Her major research and writing projects form a "trilogy" of interdisciplinary investigations of modern art and culture as articulations of the modern self. Staniszewski is currently working on the third area of investigation, a multi-volume work, which is an analysis of the historical and contemporary sense of self in the United States, featuring three key themes: race (and issues of slavery); sex (gender); and life and death.

The first book, Believing Is Seeing: Creating the Culture of Art (Penguin USA, 1995; Korean editions, Hyunsil Cultural Studies, Hyun Sil Moon Hwayonju, 2000 and 2007) frames art as we know it--that is, art for art's sake--as an "invention" of the modern era and a manifestation of the age of the individual and the liberal, democratic, capitalist state. In the second book, The Power of Display: A History of Exhibition Installations at the Museum of Modern Art (The MIT Press, 1998; paperback 2001; Korean translation, designLocus, 2007), installations are not only analyzed as contexts for works of art--but for those who view them. Museums are portrayed as sites for collective rituals that enhance particular notions of subjecthood--in MoMA's case, a U.S. liberal, democratic, capitalist one. The book is also a critique of the discipline of art history and the emphasis on the autonomy of the individual artwork. The Power of Display is intended to frame exhibition design as a discipline and integrate the installations of the international avant-gardes within the discourse of modern art. These installations are key to understanding what develops later in the century as multimedia and installation-base art.

Staniszewski is also the Director of a "Curatorial Incubator" at Exit Art, New York, which gives young and emerging curators, artists, and scholars opportunities to produce exhibitions dealing with critical issues not being adequately addressed by the mainstream art world. The first exhibition, Signs of Change: Social Movement Cultures 1960s to Now, curated by Dara Greenwald and Josh MacPhee, was presented at Exit Art from September 20 to December 6, 2008, and The Arts Center of the Capital Region, co-sponsored by iEAR Presents! and Humanities@Rensselaer (April 5 to June 5, 2009), The catalogue published by Exit Art and AK Press is now available, see The second exhibition, Corpus Extremus (LIFE+), was curated by Boryana Rossa. This exhibition dealt with issues of biotechnology and questions of life and death and was presented at Exit Art from February to April 18, 2009, In addition to the Curatorial Incubator projects, Staniszewski has conceived a symposium on Contemporary Slavery at Exit Art, New York, which she has organized in collaboration with Exit Art's staff that was held on Saturday June 11, 2011, The symposium was produced in conjunction with Contemporary Slavery, an exhibition, film program, and poetry series running from June 3 to August 5, 2011, A podcast of the symposium is available at


Ph.D., Art History - Graduate Center, City University of New York, New York NY