Natalia Di Pietrantonio is an Assistant Curator of South Asian Art at the Seattle Art Museum. Prior to this position, she was the Bard Graduate Center’s Islamic Art and Material Culture postdoctoral fellow, and served as a Consortium for Faculty Diversity visiting professor in South Asian art history at Scripps College. She recently spoke with our graduate student assistant, Shelby House, about her trajectory in South Asian Art history and museum curation.
How did you come to focus on South Asian art history?
I’ve always loved art and studied art history at U.C. Davis. During a required survey course, I fell in love with South Asian art. It was completely unexpected. I had not been exposed to it before then. Both of my parents were immigrants to this country: my father from Italy and my mother from Mexico.
What is your job like on a day-to-day basis? How do you see this changing post-pandemic?
Every day varies. There are quite a bit of meetings as curatorial practice is a collaborative endeavor. You are meeting with donors, your fellow curators, and supporting staff to ensure that the collection is being cared for properly.
In our post-pandemic world, I foresee even greater collaboration and community partnerships. We have all been starved of art and haven’t gathered in groups in quite a while. I imagine that we all would want to be in a space together and be inspired once again by art.
What are you most looking forward to about the upcoming year at the SAM?
I am most looking forward to grabbing a coffee with my colleagues and having long discussions about how we can better serve the Seattle community. Currently I am still working remotely and I long for the days of being able to run into someone and have a conversation. I also look forward to visiting artist studios again and connecting more with local collectors and community organizers.
Do you have any advice for students interested in pursuing a career in museum curation?
My advice is to network. When I was an undergrad, I followed the prescribed path of museum internships and majored in art history. Later, I pursued my doctoral studies at Columbia and Cornell University. You can check all the boxes, but you also need someone to hold the door for you. I can firmly say that I wouldn’t be here today if it weren’t for my network, my advisors and colleagues, who believed in me. In their honor, I try to hold the door open for my students. Tap into your existing network and grow it by interning and/or having coffee with someone whose career that you want to emulate. Find those people who will hold the door for you.