Researcher profile for Federico Freschi
Federico was appointed Professor and Head of College of Te Maru Pūmanawa | Creative Practice & Enterprise at the Otago Polytechnic in October 2019. He was formerly Executive Dean of the Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture at the University of Johannesburg, South Africa where he continues to have a visiting appointment as a Visiting Senior Research Associate at the SARChI Chair in South African Art and Visual Culture. Other senior management experience includes being both Acting and Deputy Head of School of the Wits School of Arts at the University of the Witwatersrand, and Executive Manager and Senior Curator of the Goodman Gallery, Cape Town. He has held academic positions to the rank of Professor in the field of History of Art at the Universities of Stellenbosch, Cape Town and the Witwatersrand.
Federico holds a PhD in Art History from the University of the Witwatersrand and has a bachelor’s degree (with distinction) in Fine Arts from the same institution and a BA Honours degree in History of Art from the University of Cape Town. He also studied towards a Performer’s Diploma in Opera at the University of Cape Town, and is an accomplished baritone.
He has served on several professional organisations and advisory boards, including being a Vice-President on the board of CIHA (Comité Internationale d'Histoire de l'Art); a member of the Committee on Design of the CAA (College Art Association); the President of SAVAH (South African Visual Arts Historians); a member of the Standard Bank Gallery Corporate Art Collection; a member of the Acquisitions Committee of the South African Broadcasting Corporation (SABC) Art Collection; and a member of the Friends of IFAS (L’Institut français de l’Afrique du Sud). In Dunedin he serves as a member of the Creative Dunedin Partnership (CDP) of the Dunedin City Council, a member of the Creative Workforce Development Committee of the CDP, and a member of the Opera Otago Board.
The bulk of his scholarly work explores the ways in which nationalism, politics and identity are imbricated in art, architecture, and design, with a specific focus on South Africa and other settler-colonial contexts. He is rated by the South African National Research Foundation and has been awarded competitive grants for his research. In addition to published research, he has curated exhibitions of national and international significance, notably as the South African curator of an exhibition of the work of Henri Matisse in Johannesburg in 2016. Entitled 'Henri Matisse: Rhythm and Meaning' the exhibition was the first exhibition of Matisse’s work on the African continent. He also compiled, edited, and wrote the bulk of the text for the scholarly catalogue accompanying the exhibition.
Recent research outputs include two co-edited, peer-reviewed books, 'Troubling Images: The Visual Culture of Afrikaner Nationalism' (Wits University Press, 2020) and 'The Politics of Design: Privilege and Prejudice in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia and South Africa' (Otago Polytechnic Press, 2021). The latter offers a unique comparative study of the ways in which white privilege has been embedded in design in these settler-colonial societies. Taking a deliberately broad view of the notion of ‘design’, the book includes multiple indigenous voices amongst its authors, drawn from leading universities in Aotearoa New Zealand, Australia, South Africa, the UK and the USA. Other research interests include the art market, particularly in the ways in which art history is written and constructed through commercial galleries. This interest is expressed in his writing on contemporary artists exhibiting in commercial galleries and through historical critique and discourse analysis.
He continues his creative practice as a performing artist, maintaining a schedule of professional performances.