When Holly Roussell Perret-Gentil ’10 completed her honors at William Smith, “The Evolution of ShanShui: The Role of the Land in Chinese Revolutionary and Contemporary Art,” she couldn’t have known that within two years she’d be studying Chinese language in Beijing and interning with a Chinese contemporary artist. That experience, however, was just the first of many that have helped propel her interest in landscape photography and contemporary art into an opportunity to help curate an acclaimed show at Somerset House, London.
After moving from China to Switzerland in 2012, she acquired an internship at the Musée de l’Elysée, one of the world’s leading museums dedicated to photography. After eight months, she enrolled in Université de Neuchâtel to pursue a master’s degree in museology/museum studies and began to pursue another internship.
Her contacts at the Musée de l’Elysée put her in touch with their former director, William Ewing, now an independent curator for the the Foundation for the Exhibition of Photography. Ewing was looking for help curating an exhibit for a non-profit foundation based in London. Roussell’s interest in and experience with landscape photography and contemporary art made her the perfect choice for assistant curator. She and Ewing had only five months to put together “Landmark: The Fields of Photography,” which opened at Somerset House, London, in March.
“Continuing on research Mr. Ewing had been doing for years prior, I worked with him to help decide which artists we’d like in the show,” says Roussell, whose responsibilities also included helping to select the works, writing the captions and wall texts and preparing the guide for the show. She then spent 10 days in London with Ewing developing the plan for the hanging of the pieces – which included more than 130 works and spanned 17 galleries.
“It was quite large,” she laughs.
Roussell was also charged with contacting the artists and reaching out to galleries and private collectors regarding loans when the artists weren’t available. “I contacted more than 70 artists and it was wonderful to work with them directly. Thirty came to the opening in London from all over the world and it was great to meet them in person and put faces to them,” says Roussell.
The show received a favorable review in The Financial Times. The full article can be found online.
“Landmark is a big show, and one of perfect museum quality. It has great photographs scattered all over it, familiar and unfamiliar. It has scholarship and verve, and is good fun to visit,” wrote Francis Hodgson, the reviewer.
Roussell and Ewing are compiling a publication which follows the exhibit. “Landmark” will be published by Thames and Hudson (Ewing is an editorial director) and will provide the opportunity to represent a greater range of each artist’s work as well as commentary about the exhibit.
Roussell earned her B.A. in art history from William Smith summa cum laude and minored in environmental studies.