Life after the Warburg: Dr. Laura Popoviciu

Dr. Laura Popoviciu, Curator: Research & Information (Historical)

After completing her MA and PhD research at the Warburg Institute, alumna Dr. Laura Popoviciu is now a curator at the UK Government Art Collection.

We asked Laura to tell us more about her life as a curator, her experience at the Warburg and how studying at the Institute helped with her career.

How did you become a curator at the Government Art Collection?

I became a curator at a time when I was looking to gain closer contact with artworks. After I finished my PhD, I embarked on a one-year assiduous journey in search of such a role. Most of the time, the path led me to further explorations, until one day I had the opportunity to discover a new direction. I embraced it and I became a research curator at the Government Art Collection.

Can you tell us what a typical day entails?

There is no such thing as a typical day at the Government Art Collection. In my role, I have the opportunity to work on a variety of stimulating tasks: I could be devising a new display for a UK government location or an embassy abroad one day, or selecting works with a minister, overseeing an installation, or curating an exhibition, another. Or you could find me in the library or the archives, researching and writing information about pre-1900 works of art in the Collection, or visiting galleries, art fairs and auction houses in search of new acquisitions. I could also be visiting a conservation studio and documenting the conservation process of a work of art, or simply spending time in the racking area and looking at works of art in the Collection.

What projects are you currently working on?

I am currently co-curating a new display, Taking Up Space, which brings together works of art by women in the Government Art Collection that challenge the concept of public space.

What has been your favourite project/piece of work during your time at the Government Art Collection?

There are two projects that I hold very close to my heart. One is Reframing the Past, the first exhibition which I curated at the Government Art Collection, which was deeply influenced by Aby Warburg’s legacy:

The other is the result of a collaboration with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on a short video about art and diplomacy.

What is the best part of your job?

The best part of my job is that I learn something new every day. Often, this involves gaining an insight from my colleagues into contemporary art, framing, conservation, photography or installation of works of art. I also enjoy having the opportunity to work on new research projects, keeping me alert, and engaged with the current topics of research and approaches to art history.

How did your time at The Warburg Institute help to equip you for your future career?

Studying at the Warburg Institute has equipped me with a rigorous structure and methodology which I constantly apply in my research. At the same time, I have learned how to approach new topics of research with an inquiring mind and without fear.

What did you enjoy most about studying at the Warburg Institute?

Studying at the Warburg Institute has allowed me to discover Medieval and Renaissance texts on a variety of topics, which have fundamentally transformed the way I think about the early modern period. I very much enjoyed deciphering Italian and Latin palaeography texts. I also remember very fondly all the encounters and exchanges of thoughts and ideas that take place in the Warburg Institute common room.

What was the most valuable thing you learned during your MA?

I learned how important it is to have contact with primary sources and documents and how to work with these in order to formulate profound and valuable arguments.

How would you rate the level of support you received from faculty whilst you were studying and now as an alumni?

During my time at the Warburg, I was fortunate enough to work under the close supervision of Professor Jill Kraye and Professor Charles Hope, who have always encouraged me to seek further, to strengthen my arguments and challenge my ideas in a constructive way. I value their dedication and expertise as well as that of the entire staff and faculty. At the same time, having the opportunity to work as a library shelver allowed me to discover the library in new ways, to the point that I have been inspired to undertake the cataloguing of the library of the Government Art Collection.

I have kept in contact with many of the Warburg Institute staff and Fellows and I continue to collaborate with some of them on research projects, lectures or seminars.

Would you recommend the Warburg Institute as a place of study and why? 

When I finished my BA studies, I knew that in order to become an art historian and gain a complex understanding of the early modern period, an interdisciplinary approach would be essential. That is exactly why I chose the Warburg Institute to pursue my MA and PhD studies and why I would unreservedly recommend the Institute as a place of study. It offered me a unique understanding of the interactions between image and word, art history, religion, literature and philosophy, across space and time.

What advice would you give to graduating students?

Instead of giving advice, I would like to say that life after the Warburg is much richer having acquired an in-depth knowledge of the early modern period and the circulation of ideas, along with a curiosity to start discovering new topics, and having encountered great minds and made lifetime friends.

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Dr. Laura Popoviciu completed her MA in Cultural and Intellectual History at the Warburg Institute prior to undertaking her PhD research ‘Between Taste and Historiography. Writing about Early Renaissance Works of Art in Venice and Florence (1550-1800)’.
The UK Government Art Collection has collected works of art for over 100 years to display in British Government buildings around the world, promoting British art and culture.