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I am a specialist in the history of twentieth century applied arts and design in East-Central Europe. I am particularly interested in scenography and interior design, as well as performance, commerce and popular culture, with a focus on identity, gender, and ethnic minorities.
 
Contact me for research, writing or curatorial projects.

About me

My research frequently crosses borders, both geographical and disciplinary, and I like to do this too, encountering different cultures and approaches. 

 

I recently wrote a book entitled Performing Modernism: A Jewish Avant-Garde in Bucharest (De Gruyter, 2022), highlighting the contribution of Jewish-Romanian cultural production to avant-garde movements in Europe and beyond through modern design and experimental Yiddish theatre. In 2020-22, I was a Leonard A. Lauder Fellow in Modern Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. My research project explored urban modernity in interwar Bucharest through the means of design, performance, and visual culture, and traced the city’s networks of connectivity to Paris and New York. I hold a PhD from the University of St Andrews on modernism in stage and interior design in interbellum East-Central Europe. Through my work, I strive to widen debate and understanding about the region and about the problems of art history. I am currently part of a collaborative research project initiated by the Zbigniew Raszewski Theatre Institute in Warsaw that aims to create a lexicon of theatrical avant-gardes in East-Central Europe. Furthermore, I am a member of the board of the Society of Romanian Studies and convenor of the Society's art history working group. 

I hold an MA in Art History from the Courtauld Institute of Art and have previously worked as senior cataloguer for Sotheby's and as curator and public programmes coordinator for GRAD, a non-profit cultural platform for Russian and Eastern European arts based in London. One of the exhibitions I co-curated at GRAD in 2014, 'Work and Play behind the Iron Curtain' was selected as one of the Guardian's top 10 design exhibitions of the year. 

 

Before forging a career in art history, I worked for the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development where I encountered more contemporary perspectives on Central and Eastern Europe.

Open Textbook in Library

Research & Writing

I have published on various aspects of performance history, from 1930s Soviet ballet to Yiddish theatre in Bucharest, and on different types of design, from constructivist film posters to art deco metalwork. My first monograph, Performing Modernism: A Jewish Avant-Garde in Bucharest (De Gruyter, 2022), investigates the reach of modernism in design and performance in interwar Romania. It is available here open access, having won DeGruyter’s Open Access Anniversary Competition. In 2018, one of my articles won the graduate essay prize of the Society of Romanian Studies. 

I have edited exhibition catalogues, acted as peer reviewer, and written numerous guest contributions for academic blogs and cultural platforms. I particularly like to write about museums, the state of art history today and current issues in Eastern Europe. 

As part of my curatorial activity, I co-produced and edited 'Bolt', an iPad app and website created to accompany an exhibition of the same name. I have also produced interpretative texts, as well as researching and writing audio guides for several exhibitions, such as this one for 'A Game in Hell: The Great War in Russia'.

Alexandra Chiriac teaching students in an exhibition

Teaching &

Public Engagement

I enjoy teaching, lecturing and helping diverse audiences to engage with art. During my PhD, I was a teaching assistant at the School of Art History at the University of St Andrews on undergraduate modules 'Art, Culture and Politics from 1900 to Now' and ‘The History and Theory of European Art, Architecture and Design from the French Revolution to Vienna 1900’. 

Prior to that, at GRAD: Gallery for Russian Art and Design I delivered curator's tours and talks for the general public and for students, from secondary school groups to postgraduate students from institutions such as the Courtauld Institute of Art, Camberwell College of Art and Kingston University. I also organised, led and chaired events and panel discussions as part of the gallery's public programmes. At Sotheby's, I led guided previews of the Russian Art Sales, including a guest lecture for Sotheby's Institute of Art's 'Art and its Markets' study programme. I also delivered public talks at the Courtauld Gallery on artists such as Luchas Cranach the Elder and Edvard Munch and I supported outreach programmes as part of the Courtauld Student Ambassador Scheme.

Alexandra Chiriac talking about a painting in font of audience.

Curator's tour of the exhibition 

'Work and Play behind the Iron Curtain', 2014.

Lecture on avant-garde movements in Romania at the Harriman Institute, Columbia University, 2021.

Recent Blog Posts

Art and Design Historian, Writer, Curator

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