Cathleen Chaffee, PhD

Charles Balbach Chief Curator

Dr. Cathleen Chaffee joined the A headshot of a white woman wearing a black shirtBuffalo AKG Art Museum in January 2014 and has been Chief Curator since September 2017.

At the Buffalo AKG, Chaffee is currently preparing touring retrospective exhibitions dedicated to Stanley Whitney (2024) and to Marisol (2023–24). She is the co-organizer of the exhibition Stanley Whitney: The Italian Paintings (April 23–November 27, 2022), concurrent with the Venice Biennale.

During her tenure at the museum, Chaffee has organized exhibitions and authored accompanying publications for projects including Introducing Tony Conrad: A Retrospective (2018), Joe Bradley (2017), Shade: Clyfford Still / Mark Bradford (2016), Erin Shirreff, Eija-Liisa Ahtila: Ecologies of Drama (2015–16), and Overtime: The Art of Work (2015), among others. She co-organized Anthony McCall: Dark Rooms, Solid Light (2019), Looking at Tomorrow: Light and Language from The Panza Collection, 1967–1990, Screen Play: Life in an Animated WorldIn the spirit of the Buffalo AKG’s founding mission to support the work of contemporary artists, many of the exhibitions curated by Chaffee have marked artists’ first US museum surveys and retrospectives.

Chaffee’s books and essays have addressed the work of Bas Jan Ader, Richard Artschwager, Carol Bove, Mark Bradford, Marcel Broodthaers, Tony Conrad, Hanne Darboven, Gabriel Kuri, Eric N. Mack, and Joëlle Tuerlinckx, among many others. Her writing has been published in magazines such as Artforum, Frieze, Contemporary, Mousse, and Manifesta Journal. Chaffee has lectured widely on contemporary art and artists as well as topics including language and duration in minimal and conceptual art, the representation of labor in postwar art, artist-curated exhibitions, and the home and “home-like” in art after Duchamp.

Chaffee was Horace W. Goldsmith Assistant Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Yale University Art Gallery from 2010 to 2014 and previously held curatorial positions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Chaffee received her PhD from the Institute of Fine Arts at New York University and was awarded a 2008 Fulbright Fellowship to Belgium to complete research for her dissertation, Décors: Marcel Broodthaers’s Late Exhibition Practice 1974–75. She received her MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London. In 2018, Chaffee was the VIA Art Fund’s Curatorial Fellow.

Dr. Cathleen Chaffee in conversation with Mark Bradford as part of the Emerging Voices in Contemporary Art Lecture Series. Photograph by Tom Loonan.