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Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev (born December 2, 1957, in Ridgewood, New Jersey, US) is an American writer, art historian and curator. She was the Artistic Director of dOCUMENTA (13) which opened in Kassel on June 9, 2012. Previously, she was the director of the Museo di Arte Contemporanea di Torino at Castello di Rivoli in Turin until 2009, and chief curator of the same museum from 2002 to 2008. In October 2012 ArtReview magazine named her number one in their annual Power 100 list of the most influential figures in contemporary art. She is of Italian and Bulgarian descent. She is married to the Italian artist Cesare Pietroiusti and has two daughters.
Family and early life
Her mother was from Piedmont, Italy and her parents studied in Turin together in the mid-1950s. Her father had fled from Bulgaria after World War II and was a medical student in Turin; her mother studied Philosophy in Turin and later got a PhD in archeology. Her parents migrated to the United States in the late 1950s, where she was born.
She grew up partly in Washington DC. A dual citizen, she returned to Europe after completing her Baccalaureate at a French lycée in Washington, and studied literature, philology, language, and art history at the University of Pisa, Italy. In 1981, she graduated laurea cum laude presenting a thesis on the relationship between American painting and poetry of the 1950s—specifically on Frank O'Hara and his relations with the art of Abstract Expressionism.
After graduation, she moved to Rome and began to write as an art critic for daily newspapers, including Reporter and Il Sole 24 Ore. Her reporting centered on early 20th century avant-garde and contemporary art. In 1999, she published a book about the Italian Arte Povera movement with Phaidon Press, London. She wrote the first monographs on the work of South African artist William Kentridge in 1996/97 (Brussels, Palais des Beaux Arts) and on Canadian artist Janet Cardiff in 2001 (New York, PS1 Contemporary Art Center).
Career as curator
After working as an independent exhibition curator for many years, she was the Senior Curator at P.S.1 Contemporary Art Center in New York, an affiliate of the Museum of Modern Art. Serving in this position from 1999–2001, she initiated the first edition of Greater New York which was organized with other curators of MoMA PS1. Following this tenure, she was Chief Curator at the Castello di Rivoli Museum in Turin, Italy from 2001 to 2008 and interim director of the museum in 2009. She has since worked, worldwide, as a curator. Amongst other exhibitions, she was the Artistic Director of the 16th Biennale of Sydney in 2008, entitled Revolutions–Forms that Turn. On December 3, 2008, she was appointed Artistic Director of the thirteenth edition of documenta, dOCUMENTA (13), which took place between 9 June until 16 September 2012, in Kassel, Germany.