Emory Report

October 26, 1998

 Volume 51, No. 9

Newest Carlos curator Ronni Baer no stranger to Emory

Once upon a time not so long ago, an Emory student went abroad and discovered her passion for art. That student was Ronni Baer, the Carlos Museum's recently appointed-and very first-curator of European art. "I took a course called 'Learn the Louvre' while I was studying at the Sorbonne in Paris," Baer recalled. "We followed a woman around the museum for a year; she stood in front of paintings and told stories. I suddenly saw what I wanted to do. I realized that someone could actually be a professional art historian."

Baer loved living abroad. She saw in both foreign language and art the means to extend and enrich her academic experiences as well as her future career opportunities. After she acquired a bachelor's degree in French literature from Emory in 1976, she continued her studies at New York University, earning a master's and doctorate in art history.

As a graduate student Baer studied languages-Dutch, German, Spanish and Italian. She spent a year in Holland researching her dissertation on Rembrandt's first pupil, artist Gerrit Dou. Later she returned to France with her husband, designer Steven Elmets, who worked for a year with I.M. Pei on the Grand Louvre project in Paris.

Her professional life steeped in art, Baer began as curatorial assistant and lecturer at The Frick Collection in New York and worked as assistant curator of drawings and prints at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum before coming to Atlanta.

From 1990 to 1994, Baer was curator of European art at the High Museum. There she held responsibility for European paintings, sculpture, drawings and prints from the 14th through 19th centuries. Her job involved conducting research, writing grants, giving lectures, and proposing, developing and organizing exhibitions. "My first task was to organize an exhibition of the work of a 'name' artist," she said. "That assignment became the 1991 Rembrandt print show, a very popular exhibition with the public and very satisfying for me." The show received a "Best Exhibition of 1991" rating from Atlanta magazine that year.

Baer has received numerous awards and honors for her work and has published and lectured extensively. An adjunct professor at the University of Georgia since 1995-and formerly at Emory-Baer has taught courses in Renaissance and Baroque art and led a graduate seminar on Rembrandt. This year she conducted research on Flemish paintings for the National Gallery of Art in Washington, and she is curating an exhibition of Dou's paintings that will be shown at the National Gallery and in London's Dulwich Picture Gallery in 2000.

"Ronnie Baer is an outstanding professional with a long track record of achievement," Carlos Director Tony Hirschel said upon her appointment. "She is also well-known in Atlanta for her keen intellect, her wide-ranging knowledge of her field and for the zest she brings to her work."

One of Baer's first assignments as curator for the Carlos Museum will be a 1999 Flemish art exhibition, on which she began work before her hire. Plans call for the exhibition, titled "So Many Brilliant Talents: Art and Craft in the Age of Rubens," to feature paintings, sculpture, drawings, prints, painted cupboards, etched ivory cabinets and tapestry from the 17th century. The museum will even re-create the era with a period room. In March of this year she accompanied Hirschel to Brussels where, with the help of her professional contacts, they secured loans of pivotal pieces. "We selected art objects from the royal museums of Belgium to represent the height of aesthetic expression in that country's golden age," Baer said. "This wouldn't be a quality exhibition without important paintings by Rubens, Van Dyke and Jordaens."

Her enthusiasm for and delight in her first Carlos project are boundless. "We want to organize this exhibition and others like it so they hold a true intellectual content. Our goal is to contribute to scholarship in a meaningful way," Baer said.

Once the 1999 exhibition is in place, Baer will begin an inventory of Emory's existing collection of European drawings, prints and photographs. The museum plans to make the works-on-paper collection accessible to students and faculty, and Baer hopes to collaborate with Emory's academic community to organize rotating exhibitions that feature works from the Carlos collection augmented by loans. She would like those exhibitions to correspond with courses at Emory. "First-hand knowledge of a great work of art is critical to the study of culture and history-there's nothing like it," Baer said.

Baer also expressed a personal goal for her work at the Carlos. "I want very much to build up the museum's works on paper. We need to acquire significant pieces to strengthen our collection. As a professional curator, that's a contribution I can make. I'm excited about being part of the vibrant intellectual community at Emory."

--Cathy Byrd

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