Michelle Grabner

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Michelle Grabner
Born1962 (age 61–62)
Known forpainting
AwardsGuggenheim Fellowship for Visual Art

Michelle Grabner (born 1962 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin) is an artist, curator, and critic based in Wisconsin.[1] She is the Crown Family Professor of Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she has taught since 1996.[2] She has curated several important exhibitions, including the 2014 Whitney Biennial at the Whitney Museum of American Art along with Anthony Elms and Stuart Comer, and FRONT International, the 2016 Portland Biennial at the Oregon Contemporary, a triennial exhibition in Cleveland, Ohio in 2018. In 2014, Grabner was named one of the 100 most powerful women in art[3] and in 2019, she was named a 2019 National Academy of Design's Academician, a lifetime honor.[4] In 2021, Grabner was named a Guggenheim Fellow by The John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.[5]


Grabner received a B.F.A. (painting and drawing) in 1984 and an M.A. in art history in 1987 from the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee. Her MA thesis and exhibition was titled "Postmodernism: A Spectacle of Reflexivity" and included work by Richard Prince, Sherrie Levine, and Kay Rosen among others. She received an M.F.A. from Northwestern University in 1990.[6][7] She is the Crown Family Professor of Art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where she has been teaching since 1996. In addition, Grabner has also held teaching appointments at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cranbrook Academy of Art, Yale Norfolk, Bard College's Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts, and Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine.[8]


Her work is in the collection of the Art Museum of West Virginia University, Morgantown; Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; the Milwaukee Art Museum; the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; DaimlerChrysler Collection, Berlin; Musée d'art moderne Grand-Duc Jean, Luxembourg; Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC; the Indianapolis Museum of Art; and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.[9] The Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland presented her first solo retrospective, Michelle Grabner, "I Work From Home", November 1, 2013 - February 16, 2014.[10] The Indianapolis Museum of Art, MOCA Cleveland, Illinois State Galleries, and INOVA at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee have each hosted survey exhibitions of Grabner’s work.

Grabner co-curated the 2014 Whitney Museum Biennial[11] and curated the 2016 Portland Biennial.[12] She was the Artistic Director for the inaugural exhibition, FRONT International,[13] the 2018 Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art, titled "An American City."[14]

A 2023 Artforum review describes Grabner's "enduring interest in vernacular patterns drawn from domestic life" which informs works that "dazzle with intricate geometries—fractal arrays of flowers, starbursts, swirls, spirals—all of which emerge from deep histories of ornamentation that go back into antiquity and loop forward to grandmothers’ afghans."[15]


Her reviews are regularly published in X-tra and Artforum.[16] In 2010, Mary Jane Jacob and Grabner co-edited THE STUDIO READER, published by the University of Chicago Press.[17] In 2018, Grabner edited An American City: Front International, a two-volume exhibition catalog published by the Cleveland Museum of Art.[18]

The Suburban and The Poor Farm[edit]

With her husband Brad Killam, she founded The Suburban[19] in Oak Park, Illinois in 1999 which hosted a range of international contemporary art. In 2015, The Suburban began programming exhibitions in Milwaukee’s Walker’s Point neighborhood. In 2009 Grabner and Killam opened The Poor Farm in rural Waupaca County, Wisconsin.[20] The Poor Farm is dedicated to annual historical and contemporary exhibitions, lectures, performances, publications, screenings and alternative educational programs.


  1. ^ "Two Curators on the 2014 Whitney Biennial - artnet News". artnet News. 2014-02-21. Retrieved February 28, 2017.
  2. ^ "School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) Rises in National Rankings". School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved January 26, 2018.
  3. ^ "The 100 Most Powerful Women in Art: Part I". 15 October 2014.
  4. ^ "NAD".
  5. ^ "John Simon Guggenheim Foundation | Michelle Grabner". Retrieved 2021-05-05.
  6. ^ "Michelle Grabner". PennDesign. University of Pennsylvania School of Design. 2015. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  7. ^ "MICHELLE GRABNER with Barry Schwabsky". www.brooklynrail.org. 2 March 2012. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  8. ^ "Michelle Grabner". SAIC. School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved January 16, 2016.
  9. ^ "Michelle Grabner Faculty Profile". School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  10. ^ Grabner, Michelle. (2014). Michelle Grabner : I work from home. Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. [Milan, Italy]: Mousse Publishing. ISBN 978-88-6749-095-0. OCLC 878689383.
  11. ^ "Whitney Biennial 2014". whitney.org. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  12. ^ "Portland2016 | A Biennial of Contemporary Art". Portland2016. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  13. ^ "FRONT International". FRONT International. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  14. ^ "New Triennial Offers Artists the Canvas of Cleveland". Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  15. ^ Avgikos, Jan (2023-10-01). "Michelle Grabner". Artforum. Retrieved 2023-12-09.
  16. ^ "Artforum.com". Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  17. ^ The Studio Reader.
  18. ^ "FRONT International". Shop — Front International. Retrieved 2018-11-18.
  19. ^ "History - The Suburban". www.thesuburban.org. Retrieved October 27, 2016.
  20. ^ "The Poor Farm facilitates and presents artist's projects and year-long exhibitions at the former Waupaca County Poor Farm (built 1876) in Little Wolf, Wisconsin". poorfarmexperiment.org. Retrieved 2018-11-18.

Further reading[edit]

  • Relyea, Lane and Michelle Grabner. “Remain in Light”. Illinois State University, 2008
  • Michelle Grabner's Black Circle Paintings, Metalpoint Drawings and Monoprints. Poor Farm Press, 2009.
  • Jacob, Mary Jane and Michelle Grabner (eds.). The Studio Reader. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010.[1]
  • Michelle Grabner: I Work From Home. Museum of Contemporary Art Ceveland. Mousse Publishing, 2014.
  • Editor, An American City: Front International, two-volume exhibition catalog, published by the Cleveland Museum of Art, 2018.

External links[edit]

  1. ^ Grabner, Michelle. (2014). Michelle Grabner : I work from home. Museum of Contemporary Art Cleveland. [Milan, Italy]: Mousse Publishing. ISBN 978-88-6749-095-0. OCLC 878689383.