Storefront for Art and Architecture has appointed José Esparza Chong Cuy as its new executive director and chief curator. For the past few years, the writer, architect, and curator has been working in museums—most recently Chicago’s Museum of Contemporary Art—and plans to apply that institutional knowledge to Storefront’s architecture-forward perspective, with the goal of expanding the institution’s audience and reach.
“Artists are constantly trying to think about our contemporary situations whereas architects are constantly thinking about our built environment,” Esparza Chong Cuy says. “Pairing these two practices and fostering collaboration between them will make for a significant curatorial program.”
Despite being a part of everyone’s lives, architecture is often considered inaccessible as a form of cultural expression. By appointing a curator with experience interpreting work for audiences of all backgrounds, ages, professional associations, and education levels, Storefront has the potential to make its work more accessible and relevant to more people.
Founded by Kyong Park in 1982, Storefront for Art and Architecture has exhibited out of a narrow space designed by architect Steven Holl and visual artist Vito Acconci since 1993. Through competitions, public programming, talks, publications, and more, Storefront explores experimental design, architectural theory and practice, and new ways to think about cities, space, and culture. Recent exhibitions include “Subculture: Microbial Metrics and the Multi-Species City,” which questions how we understand the health of urban landscapes; “24x24x24,” a live event during which 24 architects designed and built 24 chairs in 24 hours; and “March On,” a performance-based investigation into race and public space.
Esparza Chong Cuy succeeds Eva Franch i Gilabert, an architect and curator who departed Storefront after eight years to direct the Architectural Association School. Under Franch’s leadership, Storefront engaged deeply with the architecture community. Esparza Chong Cuy plans to continue advancing architecture through interdisciplinary exploration, particularly with the world of contemporary art. In a way, he’s returning to the organization’s roots.
Born in Mexico, Esparza Chong Cuy actually began his career at Storefront working for former executive director Joseph Grima. He later served as assistant curator at Museo Jumex in Mexico City, and, since 2016, as an associate curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. In 2013, he served as co-curator of the Lisbon Architecture Triennial and he holds a Master of Science in Critical, Curatorial, and Conceptual Practices in Architecture from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation.
“The most interesting things happen at the intersections of different minds, forces, and disciplines,” Esparza Chong Cuy says. “I’m interested in intersectionality and I want to use Storefront as a platform for intersectionality to happen, to be presented, and to attract more diverse voices and practices.”
Esparza Chong Cuy is still developing his curatorial program and theoretical framework, which he plans to do with input from Storefront’s board, current staff, and community. His first exhibition is due to open in 2019, and each one will build on previous shows to reveal a message about the built environment.
“I want to avoid working toward a predetermined result,” he says. “The program should allow for unexpected messages.”