Former Judd curator launches fellowship for ‘radical thinking’ at Edinburgh University

Independent research post is informed by the philosophies of the American Minimalist sculptor Donald Judd and the Scottish Enlightenment thinker David Hume


Peter Ballantine, who fabricated around 250 of Donald Judd’s works over a 25-year period, is launching a university programme informed by the philosophies of the Missouri-born artist, as well as those of the Scottish Enlightenment thinker David Hume.

Starting in March 2017, one fellow a year will take up a research post at Edinburgh University, where Hume studied from 1723. The programme will focus on the crossover between the visual arts and philosophy and neglected topics in the existing scholarship on Judd, such as abstraction, the image, precognition, object-ness, delegated fabrication and sustainability. The programme is due to run for five years.

One of the aims, Ballantine says, is to provide a “third place” to discuss Judd’s ideas, alongside the Judd Foundation’s two locations in Marfa, Texas and New York. Ballantine worked as a curator for the Judd Foundation (formerly the Judd Estate) from 1994 until 2004. “Edinburgh is Hume’s place, and there’s a strong tradition of radical thinking there,” he says. “The purpose is to produce new thinking, unavailable elsewhere.”

Although connected to Edinburgh University, Ballantine says he has been afforded “full academic and editorial independence”. Fellows will have the choice to be based in Edinburgh or Orkney, off the northeastern coast of Scotland.

A new fellow will be chosen to participate in the programme every year through a £30,000 Judd-Hume prize. Ballantine says it is important the fellows come from outside of the usual circle of Judd authors. “If you want new thinking, apparently it needs to come from new people,” he says. Ballantine also stresses that the programme “derives” from Judd and Hume, but “is bigger than that”. “It most definitely is not a Judd biography, which can be done better—or worse—someplace else,” he says.

Gottfried Boehm, a professor emeritus at the University of Basel, will take up the first post, which runs from March to April next year, followed by a symposium in May and the publication of Boehm’s research. Alva Noë, a professor of philosophy at the University of California at Berkeley, has been selected for 2018.

Judd studied philosophy and then art history at Columbia University in New York, and his engagement with philosophy, as well as architecture, design and politics, became key components of his work. “Philosophy, particularly 18th-century empirical philosophy, caused Judd to become who he was,” Ballantine says. “He talked about Hume more than the others.”

Next year also sees the opening of the Donald Judd retrospective at the Museum on Modern Art in New York, billed as the most comprehensive exhibition of his works to date (1 October 2017-28 January 2018).