Max and Emma Lecture series: Mark Dion


Location: Snite Museum of Art, Annenberg Auditorium

New York-based artist Mark Dion will give this year’s Max and Emma lecture Souvenirs, Trophies and Loot: Postcards from a Nomadic Artist for the Department of Art, Art History & Design. Dion will give a public lecture on Thursday, March 20th at 7:30pm in the Snite Museum of Art Annenberg Auditorium.


New York–based artist Mark Dion has moonlighted as an amateur geologist, ichthyologist, and archaeologist, while working with a wide range of research material. His recent work, Curator’s Office, 2013, is currently set among the many period rooms at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts—a departure from the confines of the artist's now famous Wunderkammern. Here books, furniture, and personal effects do not reveal their collector’s taste or knowledge (as traditional curiosity cabinets would have it) but rather spin a fictive tale about a curator gone missing in the 1950s in a period of American anticommunist paranoia.


Curator’s Office, 2013, mixed media, dimensions variable.



Mark Dion was born in New Bedford, Massachusetts in 1961. He received a BFA (1986) and an honorary doctorate (2003) from the University of Hartford, Hartford Art  School,  in Connecticut. He also attended the prestigious Whitney Museum of American Art's Independent Study Program. Dion’s work examines the ways in which dominant ideologies and public institutions shape our understanding of history, knowledge, and the natural world. The job of the artist, he says, is to go against the grain of dominant culture, to challenge perception and convention. Appropriating archaeological and other scientific methods of collecting, ordering, and exhibiting objects, Dion creates works that question the distinctions between ‘objective’ (‘rational’) scientific methods and ‘subjective’ (‘irrational’) influences. The artist’s spectacular and often fantastical curiosity cabinets, modeled on Wunderkammen  of the 16th Century, exalt atypical orderings of objects and specimens. By locating the roots of environmental politics and public policy in the construction of knowledge about nature, Mark Dion questions the authoritative role of the scientific voice in contemporary society.

He has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Foundation Award (2001) The Joan Mitchell Foundation Award (2007) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum's  Lucida Art Award (2008).  He has had major exhibitions at the Miami Art Museum (2006); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2004); Aldrich Museum of Contemporary Art, Ridgefield, Connecticut (2003);  Tate Gallery, London (1999), and the British Museum of Natural History in London (2007) . “Neukom Vivarium” (2006), a permanent outdoor installation and learning lab for the Olympic Sculpture Park, was commissioned by the Seattle Art Museum. Dion has recently completed a major permanent commission, ‘OCEANOMANIA: Souvenirs of Mysterious Seas’ for the Oceanographic Museum in Monaco. He is the co-director of Mildred's Land an innovative visual art education and residency program in Beach Lake, Pennsylvania.

For over two decades Dion has worked in the public realm on a wide range of scales, from architecture projects to  print project in newspaper. Some of his most recent large scale pubic project include "The Amateur Ornithologist  Clubhouse" a Captain Nemo-like interior constructed in a vast gas tank in Essen, Germany, "The Hanging Garden" a collaboration with the landscape design firm Gross Max in central London, which consists of a fire escape-like vertical garden. and "Den" a large scale folly in Norway's mountainous landscape which feature a massive sculpture of a sleeping bear resting on a hill of material culture form the neolithic to the present. Dion also produce a large scale permanent commissions for Documenta 13 in Kassel, Germany as well as for the Montevideo Biannale in Uruguay and the Port of Los Angeles.

Dion lives with his wife and frequent collaborator Dana Sherwood in New York City and works worldwide.