Ghenete Zelleke, decorative arts curator, Minneapolis Institute of Art. Photo courtesy Clare Britt.
The Minneapolis Institute of Art has hired Ghenete Zelleke to head its department of decorative arts and sculpture starting in August 2016. She takes over from Eike Schmidt who departed in October 2015 to become director of the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, Italy.
As the James Ford Bell Curator of Decorative Arts and Sculpture, Zelleke will manage one of the museum's largest departments consisting of some 18,000 pieces of furniture, textiles and sculpture plus silver, porcelain and glassware spanning 1,000 years of European and American history. The museum's famous "period rooms," which recreate living spaces from earlier eras, are also her responsibility.
Zelleke has been at the Art Institute of Chicago since 1991. She became that museum's Samuel and M. Patricia Grober Curator in European Decorative Arts in 1998. Among her many exhibitions were shows focusing on the designs of Scottish architect Charles Rennie Mackintosh,18th-century French porcelain from Vincennes and Sevres, and Viennese arts and crafts furniture designed by Josef Hoffmann.
Her tech credits include taking the curatorial lead on "LaunchPad," a 2012 project for iPad that gave visitors access to 50 works of art from the Chicago museum's 17th through 19th century collections of decorative art. She spent three years, 2006-2009, overseeing design and installation of the museum's new galleries of European decorative arts and incorporatig objects into its displays of European paintings and sculpture.
In Minneapolis she is expected to help the museum evaluate and possibly redo its decorative art displays, "from finding new ways to activate our period rooms to changing the way we write our labels," said Kaywin Feldman, the museum's director in a statement announcing the appointment.
Zelleke holds an M.A. in the history of European decorative arts from the Cooper-Hewitt Museum/Parsons School of Design and a B.A. in art history from the University of Cambridge.