Elena’s dissertation, “The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp,” supervised by Professor Hal Foster, focuses on a series of fugitive operations (or “activities” as her title calls them) that Marcel Duchamp incited between 1913 and 1969. She traces how these ostensibly non-“artistic” roles—among them, administrator, archivist, art adviser, curator, publicist, reproduction-maker, and salesman—were deployed by Duchamp in order to test, theorize, position, and even constitute his work as such.
Elena is currently director and chief curator of Kunsthalle Basel, one of the first and still most active art spaces in Switzerland devoted to international contemporary art. There she organizes up to ten exhibitions a year, along with an active public program of related events. Prior to that position, she served for six years as senior curator of WIELS Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels, in addition to being tutor of theory/exhibition history at De Appel postgraduate curatorial training program in Amsterdam, and adviser at the Rijksakademie.
With Adam Szymczyk, Elena co-curated the 5th Berlin Biennial (2008) and has curated a number of traveling retrospectives, including Mark Leckey: Lending Enchantment to Vulgar Materials (2014); Franz Erhard Walther: The Body Decides (2014); Alina Szapocznikow: Sculpture Undone, 1955–1972, co-curated with Joanna Mytkowska (2011–12); Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects without Specific Form (2010–11); and Marcel Duchamp: A Work That Is Not a Work “of Art” (2008–9). She was guest curator of the 14th Prix Fondation d’Entreprise Ricard (Paris, 2012) and the Satellite Program at the Jeu de Paume in Paris (2010). She has also organized solo exhibitions of artists such as Petrit Halilaj, Leigh Ledare, Klara Lidén, Lorna Macintyre, Melvin Moti, Tomo Savic-Gecan, and Tris Vonna-Michell.
Her publications include The Biennial Reader: Anthology on Large-Scale Perennial Exhibitions of Contemporary Art, coedited with Marieke van Hal and Solveig Øvstebø (Hatje Cantz, 2010) and The Manifesta Decade: Debates on Contemporary Art Exhibitions and Biennials in Post-Wall Europe, coedited with Barbara Vanderlinden (Roomade and MIT Press, 2005). Her writings have appeared in numerous artists’ catalogues and journals, and she is editor of the serial publication “The Artist as Curator” for Mousse. She is currently at work on several books: The Apparently Marginal Activities of Marcel Duchamp, adapted from her dissertation, slated to appear with MIT Press; David Hammons’s Bliz-aard Ball Sale, to be published by Afterall as part of the “One Work” series; and Felix Gonzalez-Torres: Specific Objects without Specific Form, following her exhibition of the same name.