Luke Syson will present in the Seminar in Renaissance and Early Modern Material Culture on Wednesday, April 25, at 6 pm. His talk is entitled “Sculpture in Color: Challenging the European Canon.”

Just how perfectly should a sculpture resemble the living human? Like Life: Sculpture, Color and the Body (1300-now), the exhibition that opens at Met Breuer on March 20, explores the challenges to critical thinking posed by excessive realism. For art to be understood as the economic preserve of a social and cultural elite, it needs to be difficult, expressed in languages that needed to be explained and learnt. The art of the Catholic church, the dining table, or the wax museum was too accessible to be considered serious. Commentators from Vincenzo Borghini to Hal Foster have hurled critical brickbats at these colored, convincing images of ourselves, in a way that illuminates a suspicion of the popular that is still endemic today.

After studying at the Courtauld Institute, Luke Syson started at the British Museum as Curator of Medals in 1991. He co-edited the volume The Image of the Individual, co-wrote Objects of Virtue: Art in Renaissance Italy, and was one of the curators who put together the Enlightenment Gallery. Syson was the co-curator of the 2001 National Gallery exhibition on Pisanello. In 2002 he moved to the Victoria & Albert Museum as part of the team planning new galleries of Medieval and Renaissance art. In 2003 he began his work at the National Gallery in London as Curator of Italian Painting before 1500 and Head of Research, where he led the campaign to acquire Raphael’s Madonna of the Pinks, organized the display of Renaissance relief sculpture from the V&A, and curated the exhibition Renaissance Siena: Art for a City. In 2011 he organized Leonardo da Vinci: Painter at the Court of Milan. Syson joined The Met in 2012 as the Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Curator in Charge and was promoted to Chairman in 2014. He is directing the renovation of the Aitken Galleries for British Decorative Arts scheduled to open in 2019 and is co-curator of the Met Breuer exhibition Like Life: Sculpture, Color and the Body (1300-now).