Jenni Crain, Beloved Artist and Curator, Has Died of COVID-19

 Jenni Crain photographed by Barbara Probst. (courtesy of Gordon Robichaux)

Artist and curator Jenni Crain died Thursday, December 16, at the age of 30. The cause was sudden complications related to COVID-19, according to Gordon Robichaux gallery.

Crain built an illustrious career in the arts, dedicating laudable efforts to foregrounding the legacies of women artists under-recognized in art history. She earned an MA in Curatorial Studies from CCS Bard in Annandale-on-Hudson, where she recreated feminist author and artist Kate Millett’s 1972 installation “Terminal Piece” as part of her thesis exhibition this year. Her personal artistic practice encompassed evocative minimal sculptures that plumbed themes of memory and space.

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“Jenni’s commitment to and interest in fellow artists encompassed their entire human experience,” says a statement from Gordon Robichaux, where Crain worked as a dealer and exhibition curator. The gallery also represents Crain, presenting the first exhibition of her work in 2018, a two-person show with collaborator Miles Huston.

“She formed immeasurable, lifelong bonds with those she worked and collaborated with, and touched all who knew her with her radiant joy, generosity, kindness, intelligence, nurturing spirit, and boundless energy,” the statement continues.

In 2014, at the age of 23, Crain co-founded Topless, a seasonal exhibition space in Rockaway Beach, along with Brent Birnbaum. From 2016 to 2019, she worked as a director at the Tribeca gallery Kaufmann Repetto. She joined Miguel Abreu Gallery on the Lower East Side as a director earlier this year.

Crain was born in 1991 in New York City. It is unclear whether she had pre-existing medical conditions or how she contracted the virus. She had recently returned from Art Basel Miami Beach, which did not mandate proof of vaccination, but allowed those who provided proof of a negative COVID-19 test to enter the fair. There have been mostly anecdotal reports of a surge in infections during Miami Art Week.

Two exhibitions of Crain’s work will open in New York in 2022: Moments Spared, a site-specific installation for the window of Kerry Schuss Gallery in January, and Fleeting, a solo exhibition of the artist’s sculptures at Gordon Robichaux in May. 

Lauren Cornell, the director of the graduate program at CCS Bard and Crain’s thesis advisor, said that she was an “absolute inspiration to her fellow students and always a generous peer and friend.”

“We are heartbroken and yet also feel so fortunate to have known her closely,” Cornell told Hyperallergic. “She was the kind of person that pushes our field forward: she was a sharp and inventive thinker, a generous and tireless organizer, friend, and advocate for artists, and a person with a true passion for art and narratives that are undersung. She was truly special and this loss of promise and potential is immeasurable.”


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