Profile #3: Indira Abiskaroon, Curatorial Assistant, The Guggenheim Museum

Indira A. Abiskaroon is a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker. A first-generation American born to a Coptic-Egyptian father and an Indo-Guyanese mother, Abiskaroon loves to travel and explore other cultures, but continues to call New York City and its vibrant art scene home. After graduating from the Macaulay Honors College at Hunter College with majors in Latin and Greek and art history, she went on to complete an MA in the history of art and archaeology at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts. She now works as a curatorial assistant at the Guggenheim, where she is part of a specialized team dedicated to managing the museum’s collection. Her responsibilities vary widely, from researching artists and artworks in the collection to contributing content for the museum’s Instagram.

Abiskaroon uses the tools she gained as a classics major every day. Though working primarily with modern and contemporary art, her knowledge of the ancient world allows her to identify its influence on art of later periods. “You may not think of the Greeks or the Romans when you look at a work by Picasso,” she notes; “but the artist was deeply inspired by ancient sculpture and vase paintings.” Abiskaroon also credits her classical training with making her a better writer—an indispensable skill in her line of work, where she has done everything from composing one-sheets, artist bios, and museum labels to writing entries for museum catalogues. Learning to read French and Italian came easily to her thanks to her training in classical languages. And her study of classics equipped her with a strong work ethic: “a classics curriculum is as rewarding as it is rigorous,” Abiskaroon remarks. 

Indeed. But when it comes to drive and accomplishments, Abiskaroon is surely prima inter pares. While in graduate school, where she earned a distinction on her thesis, she interned at the Met, the Whitney, and at ArtBinder, a company providing inventory management systems to the art world. “Internships are especially important if you want to work in a museum,” Abiskaroon advises. “Positions are rare and extremely competitive, so it stands out on your resume if you’ve had previous museum experience.” And then there is networking. “Go to gallery openings, visit museums, and attend lectures by artists, art historians, and art professionals. You’ll not only learn a ton about art, but you’ll also meet people who have been in your position. Opportunities to connect with others will present themselves. Work experience is important, but your knowledge of and passion for art is essential.”

If you think Abiskaroon had her career figured out from the start, you would be wrong: “I have had peers who could tell you about their dream job before they even started college. That wasn’t me. It took a number of years and quite a few internships to find the right path for me. I was able to identify where I felt most comfortable, and why. Just as important, I took note of what didn’t feel right.”

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