Lisa Kim '96 has an art history major's dream job. Manager of the 21st Street location of the world-famous Gagosian Gallery, where she coordinates the arrival of Picassos and other works from all over the world and oversees the exhibits’ installation. She also serves as the private collection manager for owner Larry Gagosian.
Born in Korea and raised in Cherry Hill, N.J., Kim didn't grow up going to museums. "Barnard was really the key in unlocking my future—finding my way to the art history department and being able to explore my creativity through the visual arts concentration," she says.
Kim started out interested in being a political science major. But she fell in love with art history when she took a summer class and studied the Anselm Kiefer landscape work "Nigredo," whose title alludes to one of the processes of alchemy. She switched departments and found a mentor in her advisor, current visual arts department head Joan Snitzer, whom she credits with setting her on a remarkable career path.
"It sounds weird to say, but I've never had to look for a job," Kim says. "I've just passed on from one place to the next." As an undergraduate, she found an assistantship to an art advisor position through Career Services, which led to her recruitment as assistant to the director of the Gagosian’s SoHo location in 1997. She worked her way up the ranks of the renowned contemporary gallery until she was managing the construction of its new 26,000-square-foot 24th Street location, a space that has since housed major exhibitions by contemporary artists like Richard Serra and Damien Hirst since it opened in 1999.
Working on construction of that space reawakened a love of hands-on design Kim had put aside while earning a liberal arts degree, inspiring her to earn a master's in industrial design from Pratt, which she completed in 2005. "I consider myself a designer," she says. "I think about how people interact with spaces, places, and furniture in everyday life. I have a fascination with beautiful, functional objects."
After Pratt, she jumped at the chance to explore a different path when, in 2006, she was recruited to direct the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs' Percent for Art program, which allocates a percent of construction budgets to put art in schools, parks, and municipal buildings. But after two and a half years in that position, Kim decided to return to the Gagosian’s 21st Street location when she was offered the unique opportunity to manage the private collection. "It's all about the contacts and relationships that I've built in the industry," she says. "You don't burn bridges. So now I've come back to the mother ship. It's the place that I know and they know me." —J.CollinsRead about more Alumnae in Action