People / Faculty

Alessandra Russo

Alessandra Russo
Associate Professor Director of Graduate Studies Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures / Institute for Comparative Literature and Society
  • Address
    405 Casa Hispánica
    Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures
    Columbia University
    612 W 116th street
    New York City, NY 10027
  • Phone
    please use the email
  • Fax
    (212) 854-5322
  • Email


Alessandra Russo studies the theory, practice and display of the arts in the Early Modern times. She has been trained in art history and historical anthropology at the Universitá di Bologna, at the Universiteit Leiden, and at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, in Paris, where she received her Ph.D. (2006). Her dissertation was awarded the EHESS best dissertation prize. Before joining the Department of Latin American and Iberian Cultures, at Columbia, in 2007, she had been visiting researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas/ UNAM, in Mexico, where she did intensive archival and fieldwork. She has been invited as a research fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg-Institute for Advanced Study, in Berlin and as a visiting professor at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art, and at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, in Paris.

At Columbia, Professor Russo teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on the Early Modern period with a special emphasis on the artistic dynamics in the context of the Iberian expansion.

Academic Statement

Publishing and Curating

Alessandra Russo is author of the books The Untranslatable Image (2014; French edition: L'image intraduisible, 2013), El realismo circular (2005), and co-editor of Images Take Flight (2015; Best book award in "theory of art" and Grand Prix du Jury at FILAF, 2016; Honorable Mention, ALAA Book Award, 2016). She has also authored numerous articles in international journals, in books and exhibition catalogs. A selection of publications is available in the bookshelf.

With the support of a Getty Foundation Collaborative Research Grant, she curated with Gerhard Wolf and Diana Fane the exhibition El vuelo de las imágenes. Arte plumario en México y Europa. 1300-1700 (Museo Nacional de Arte, México, 2011). She also collaborated with Serge Gruzinski in the curatorship of Planète Métisse (Musée du Quai Branly, Paris, 2008-2009).

Alessandra Russo is presently working on two new book manuscripts. A New Antiquity. Art and Humanity as Universal (1400-1600) proposes that the variety and complexity of objects, materials, architectures and artistic practices observed in the context of the Iberian expansion generated radically new theoretical approaches toward human artistry. A second book in progress, entitled The Great Custodian. Sebastiano Biavati, Curator of a New Artistic World, is a study of the arts and geopolitics of the XVIIth century through the Baroque collector Ferdinando Cospi and the custodian of his museum, Sebastiano Biavati. Both new book manuscripts are briefly presented in the research  page.

Researching, Teaching, and Advising

" Researching and teaching are for me interrelated thinking activities. I conceive all my courses (both at the undergraduate and graduate level) in close dialogue with my ongoing writing projects—hence, they are always research courses. In this way, students participate in the discovery of materials and in the production of new questions and analysis. They are in contact with the newest ideas and archives that I am myself thinking about. Yet, the syllabi are always designed to introduce students to broad topics related to Early Modern times where they can discover their own interests as well. Throughout the semester and the years following, I help students give shape to their own topics and hypotheses. I do not assign paper themes, nor thesis subjects. I rather echo the initial idea or question a student shares with me, and together we work from there. I find this the most rewarding advising experience: to see how new thinking and potentially substantial research subjects generate from students' initial interests, intuitions and work. "

Research group "Spanish Italy and Iberian Americas" (2016-2020)

Alessandra Russo and Michael Cole have been awarded a Getty Foundation "Connecting Art Histories" grant for a project on the artistic interactions between Spanish Italy and the Iberian Americas in the 16th century. In its first phase (2016-2017) the project has brought together younger scholars from Italy and Latin America with a group of distinguished faculty to study the artistic ties that developed between these two regions. After supporting trips to Milan and Naples, and a first workshop in NYC, the Getty Foundation has generously offered a second fellowship to continue the project (2018-2020) with a special focus on Sardinia and Puglia. This new phase started with a research workshop at Columbia University and will continue with the group's field trips to the regions. The project now intends to disseminate the group's research through public initiatives, including a new website where we will publish, on a weekly basis, an entry authored by a participant, on an object, an artifact or a monument.

Other affiliations:

Society of Fellows in the Humanities (Columbia University), Member of the Governing Board.

Institute of Comparative Literature and Society, European Institute, Institute of Latin American Studies (Columbia University), Associated Faculty.

Centre de Recherches sur les Mondes Américains-EHESS, Paris, Associate researcher.