Columbia University in the City of New York

2019 Alan Kanzer Artist-in-Residence: Sarah Sze

Sarah Sze shares her work at the Lenfest Center for the Arts (Credit: Joel Jares for the Columbia University School of the Arts)

Fostering creative pursuit in neuroscience and the arts

Columbia's Zuckerman Institute believes that advances in brain science will reveal not only how the brain works in health and disease but also give greater insight into creativity, perception, decision making and our actions and behaviors. Discoveries in these areas will enrich and impact fields as diverse as medicine, computer science, economics, social policy and, of course, the arts. A deeper understanding of the brain and mind has the power to transform science and society.

A collaboration between Columbia's Zuckerman Institute and School of the Arts, the Alan Kanzer Artist-in-Residence program gives visual artists time to forge formal and informal interactions with scientists working in the brain, the senses, perception, learning and memory, music and the arts, and promotes engagement across the Institute and the surrounding community. 

The 2019 Alan Kanzer Artist-in-Reisdence is contemporary artist and sculptor Sarah Sze.

As an Alan Kanzer Artist in Residence, Sze will engage with artists and scientists in the interdisciplinary pursuit of deeper understandings about the mind and brain. She will work with a faculty host to define and achieve concrete outcomes, such as works of art, that benefit her creative pursuit, Institute scientists and the community-at-large. By the end of the residency, Sze, the scientists and members of the wider community will benefit from access to new knowledge and perspectives from these cross-disciplinary activities.


About Sarah Sze

Since the late 1990s, internationally acclaimed artist Sarah Sze has developed a signature visual language that challenges the static nature of sculpture. Sze draws from Modernist traditions of the found object, dismantling their authority with dynamic constellations of materials that are charged with flux, transformation and fragility. Captured in this suspension, her immersive and intricate works question the value society places on objects and how objects ascribe meaning to the places and times we inhabit.

Coinciding with the explosion of information of the 21st Century, Sze’s work simultaneously models and navigates the ceaseless proliferation of information in contemporary life. Her encyclopaedic installations unfold like a series of experiments that construct intimate systems of order — precarious ecologies in which material conveys meaning and a sense of loss.

Widely recognized for challenging the boundaries of painting, installation and architecture, Sze’s sculptural practice ranges from slight gestures discovered in hidden spaces to expansive installations that scale walls and colonize architectures.

Sarah Sze represented the United States at the Venice Biennale in 2013, and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2003, and a Radcliffe Fellowship in 2005. She has exhibited in museums worldwide, and her works are held in the permanent collections of prominent institutions, including The Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Fondation Cartier, Paris; The Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art; and the Museum of Modern Art, Los Angeles. Sze’s work has been featured in The Whitney Biennial (2000), the Carnegie International (1999) and several international biennials, including Berlin (1998), Guangzhou (2015), Liverpool (2008), Lyon (2009), São Paulo (2002), and Venice (1999, 2013, and 2015). Sze has also created public works for the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, and the High Line in New York. In 2016 Sze completed a permanent commission for the New York Metropolitan Transportation Authority’s 2nd avenue subway line, 96th street station. Recent institutional exhibitions Sarah Sze: Timekeeper, Rose Art Museum, Brandeis University, Waltham, MA (2016, traveled to Copenhagen Contemporary, Denmark, in 2017); ARoS Triennial, Arhus, Denmark (2017); and Centrifuge, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2017). Sze was born in Boston, Massachusetts and lives and works in New York City.


Sarah Sze's residency is hosted by Rui Costa, DVM, PhD, professor of neuroscience and director and CEO of Columbia's Zuckerman Institute. If you would like to meet with the artist during her residency, please contact Dr. Costa.

In 2017, the Institute announced renowned artist Jeff Koons as its first Artist-in-Residence, with the goal of promoting a meaningful dialogue between brain sciences and the arts. This program continues with the generous support of Alan Kanzer. Columbia University’s School of the Arts and Zuckerman Institute are grateful to Mr. Kanzer for his generosity and commitment to fostering interactions between the arts and neuroscience.

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The Senses January 2, 2020

Artist Sarah Sze on Working With Neuroscientists

Sarah Sze, a 2003 Macarthur Fellow and a professor in the visual arts program at the School of the Arts, spent 2019 as the Alan Kanzer Artist-in-Residence at the Zuckerman Institute.

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Videos featuring Sarah Sze

Richard Axel and Sarah Sze: Neuroscience, Art and the Construction of Reality