Helen Varola is an independent curator based in Milan who specializes in commissioned projects and art acquisitions utilizing a hand picked team of artists, dealers and associates around the globe and the expertise of working with the cutting edge of recent contemporary art practice for 20 years.
After working with prominent New York galleries such as Paula Cooper and Blum Helman in the late 1980's and early 1990's, Varola began her independent curatorial practice advising private collections (among ARTnews Top 200) and corporations such as Cohen Brothers Realty, Carlyle Group, Equity Office and PricewaterhouseCoopers. Acquistions included works by Doug Aitken, John Armleder, Richard Artschwager, Angela Bulloch, Wim Delvoye, Bernard Frize, KAWS, Kenneth Noland, Erwin Redl, Anselm Reyle, Wolfgang Tillmans, Morgane Tschiember and Xavier Veilhan. Her exhibitions included Vito Acconci, Skip Arnold, William Forsythe, Susan Hiller, Christian Jankowski, Kim Jones, Olu Oguibe, Sermin Kardustencer, Matt Mullican, Vik Muniz, Eileen Myles, R.H. Quaytman, Rirkrit Tiravanija, Kiki Smith, Mark Wallinger, and The World Economic Forum, at Davos, Switzerland.
From 2009 to 2018, Varola directed a Los Angeles-based initiative entitled "designLAb," for the Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood in which she invited a range of artists, architects, designers and galleries to create special projects including Lita Albuquerque, Justin Beal, Walead Beshty, Kristen Cunningham, Daniel Faust, Max Hooper Schneider, Anthony James, Simryn Gill, Piero Golia, Christopher Grimes, Fabrice Hyber, Industry, Alex Israel, LAND, Elena Manferdini, Christopher Mount, Otis College of Art and Design, Patrick Painter, Tejo Remy, Ry Rocklen, Will Ryman, Nobuo Sekine, Diana Thater, Tracy Williams, Paul Young and Peter Zellner. In a profile for Art in America, Kris Kraus noted that “under Helen Varola the Pacific Design Center has become the home of some of LA’s most innovative, ambitious young galleries.”
Varola currently advises on special commissioned projects for the new PDC Design Gallery located at the former MOCA branch at the PDC. The gallery’s mission is to explore design as an extension of artistic practice through a vast range of multi-disciplinary practices with three four-month exhibitions per year. Programming comprises immersive installation-based exhibits, visionary architectural projects, graphic communications, design objects, artist designed furniture and textiles as well as cutting-edge work by L.A.’s young artists and students.
Varola's curatorial work has been reviewed in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Art Monthly, Flash Art, The Art Newspaper, Domus, Interior Design, Architectural Digest, the Guardian, Artribune, Il Giornale, La Republlica and La Stampa. Her work is also mentioned in Anthony Haden-Guest's True Colors, a book portaying the 1980's New York art scene.
Varola has published catalogue essays for the Hayward Gallery, London, the Site Gallery, Sheffield, and the Santa Monica Museum, Santa Monica; in addition she has contributed articles to Forum International, Klat, Neue Bildende Kunst, Trans>, and Time Out New York.
Helen Varola studied Art History and Political Science as an undergraduate and graduate student at the University of Chicago (M.A.,1982) where she studied with Harold Rosenberg and Thomas Crow. Upon graduation she was awarded internships with the Morton D. May Collection at the St. Louis Art Museum and with David Goldblatt at the Dept. of Visual and Environmental Studies, Harvard University.