Art Gallery of York University (AGYU) is pleased to welcome Lillian O’Brien Davis.
With a background in curatorial studies, Lillian O’Brien Davis has played impactful roles in developing exhibitions, most notably Conceptions of White, a traveling group exhibition that critically examines contemporary configurations of White identity and its historical impact on racial hierarchies. Lillian brings a dedication to contemporary art, artists, and audience development, reinforcing the gallery’s commitment to fostering artistic engagement and working to make York University’s art collection more accessible to students, faculty and the public.
Her recent role as Curator of Exhibitions and Public Programs at Gallery 44 has given Lillian a grounding in the Toronto art community and experience in mounting contemporary art exhibitions. She is currently one of the City of Toronto’s curators for Nuit Blanche, curating the Etobicoke 2023 component for which she is commissioning and producing 10 temporary public artworks. She developed knowledge and interest in working with art collections during her tenure at the MacKenzie Art Gallery (MAG) in Regina, where she curated multiple exhibitions and presented community engaged performances, screenings, and workshops. Additionally, Lillian’s insightful writings have been published in BlackFlash Magazine, Canadian Art, C Magazine, Insight Magazine, and RACAR (Revue d’art canadienne/Canadian Art Review). Currently serving as one of two inaugural Visiting Curators at the School of Art Gallery at the University of Manitoba, Lillian’s dedication to curating and the artists she works with has been consistently recognized and rewarded. In all her recent roles, Lillian has played an active and leading role in EDI initiatives, which she applies to her curatorial practice and her community activities. She is currently part of the Hart House Acquisitions Committee for the University of Toronto.
Lillian has been appointed the Curator of Collections and Contemporary Art Engagement for an 18 month contract, starting October 2023. In this multifaceted position, Lillian will be collaborating closely with all AGYU staff and consulting with the Director/Curator to play a pivotal role in all aspects of the gallery’s operations, from program development and audience engagement to collections and facilities care.
As the gallery undergoes a transformative phase, including its transformation into the Joan and Martin Goldfarb Gallery of York University, Lillian will play a key role in the transition of the University’s art collection into these new facilities. She will develop programs instrumental in making the art collection more active and accessible for students, faculty, and researchers. She will also be instrumental in developing a contemporary exhibition and discursive program that critical examines art collecting practices.
One of the primary focuses of Lillian’s role will be working closely with our Art Acquisitions Committee to uphold and enforce sustainable and ethical practices concerning the care, growth, and possible repatriation of York University’s art collection. Jenifer Papararo, AGYU’s Director/Curator, states, “Lillian’s growing knowledge of international and national contemporary art, combined with her keen interest in art collecting practices, will undoubtedly make her a valuable asset to the AGYU and York University, in ensuring the art collection’s integrity and long-term sustainability while supporting artists and engaging audiences.”
The appointment of Lillian as the Curator of Collections and Contemporary Art Engagement is a hopeful moment that represents AGYU’s unwavering commitment to fostering critical curatorial practices dedicated to art and artists and represents the gallery’s efforts in making York University’s art collection more accessible while engaging audiences through thought-provoking programs.
The addition of Lillian to our team at this moment of transition gives us confidence that we will continue to build a critical path for the presentation of professional art exhibitions on York University’s Keele campus as a tool for learning in and of itself, and, as we continue to build community ties, acting as a bridge through our programs.