Curators are in the public eye more than ever before, as institutional exhibition programmes grow and museums look for new ways to engage audiences with their collections. Our Thinkers category features several who are changing the way we think about art and artists.



Curator, Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago

Naomi Beckwith’s route into the art world was unplanned: now a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in her native Chicago, she originally went to university to become a doctor. Following an MA at London’s Courtauld Institute, Beckwith landed a fellowship in 2005 at Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) where she was responsible for a number of cutting-edge exhibitions, including ‘Locally Localized Gravity’ (2007). A stint at the Studio Museum in Harlem saw her organise a solo exhibition in 2010 by the then little-known painter Lynette Yiadom-Boakye. More recently, she has curated ‘The Freedom Principle’ at the MCA. Click here to read our profile of Naomi Beckwith.



Chief Curator, the Frick Collection
New York

Xavier Salomon has already established himself as an exceptional art historian, with a track record for organising superb scholarly exhibitions. Having begun his career as a curatorial fellow at the Frick Collection in New York, where he put together his first exhibition, ‘Veronese’s Allegories’ (2006), Salomon returned to that institution as chief curator in 2014. Previously he was curator in the department of European Paintings at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and, before that, chief curator at Dulwich Picture Gallery, where he organised ‘Van Dyck in Sicily, 1624–25: Painting and the Plague’ (2012). An expert on Veronese, Salomon curated last year’s monographic exhibition on the artist at London’s National Gallery. Click here to read our Q+A with Xavier F. Salomon.



Chief Curator, Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston

Today’s contemporary art curators are charged with advocating the work of lesser-known international artists as much as celebrating that of homegrown stars. Eva Respini has worked closely with Middle Eastern artists, a strength much heralded when she was appointed chief curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA), Boston in 2014, as it promises to refresh the global perspective of the museum. Respini previously held the post of curator in the department of photography at MoMA, where she was responsible for a highly acclaimed Cindy Sherman retrospective in 2012, and oversaw many significant additions to the collection.



Associate Curator in the Department of Media and Performance Art, MoMA
New York

Thomas Lax made his name at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where he worked for seven years before joining MoMA in 2014, organising numerous exhibitions and performances with a focus on performance art, dance and video, as well as socially engaged art. Major projects there included ‘When the Stars Begin to Fall: Imagination and the American South’ (2014) and ‘Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art’ (2013). Earlier this year he was awarded the Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement, and we can expect further groundbreaking work from him at MoMA.



Curator in charge of European painting, Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco

Esther Bell is the type of curator that so many historical collections yearn for today: knowledgeable and scholarly, but with the savviness and connections to make things happen. She is a specialist in 17th- and 18th-century European art, and has held curatorial positions at some of the country’s top museums, including the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Morgan Library. Most recently, she worked at the Cincinnati Art Museum, where she curated exhibitions on Impressionist pastels and on François Boucher.



Writer and Editor
New York

Recent years have seen a revival in long-form journalism, as readers turn away from the flimsiness of much online content in search of more considered writing and criticism. Hence Even, a tri-annual print magazine dedicated to long-form art criticism, which launched this year with Jason Farago at the helm. The young New Yorker studied at Yale University and the Courtauld Institute before swiftly making his mark as one of the most incisive critics working in the States today. He serves as The Guardian’s US art critic and is a regular contributor to the New Yorker.



Curator and Associate Director, Technology Initiatives, New Museum
New York

Lauren Cornell was in the vanguard of curators to recognise and promote post-internet art. From 2005–12, she was executive director of Rhizome, an arts organisation supporting contemporary art that engages with digital technologies and the internet, and in 2009 she co-curated the first New Museum Triennial – which included the work of pioneering new media artist Ryan Trecartin. And it was with Trecartin that she co-curated this year’s Triennial, ‘Surround Audience’, exploring how notions of selfhood have been transformed beyond recognition in our increasingly connected world.



Deputy Director of Programs and Chief Curator, Whitney Museum
New York

As the Whitney Museum moved into its new home in New York’s Meatpacking District earlier this year, the institution also seized the opportunity to promote one of its curatorial stars. Scott Rothkopf first joined the museum’s staff as a curator in 2009, having previously worked as senior editor at Artforum International for five years. Since then, he has organised major exhibitions dedicated to Glenn Ligon and Wade Guyton and, in 2014, the triumphant Jeff Koons retrospective that was the final show to be mounted at the Whitney’s Upper East Side location.



Curator of Art, Andy Warhol Museum

The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis is one of the leading players in the US contemporary art world. It was there that Bartholomew Ryan flourished as an assistant curator, organising acclaimed exhibitions on contemporary abstract painting and the role of the artist in today’s culture. This year, he has been responsible for ‘International Pop’, broadening the historical focus on Pop art beyond the usual narrative of its advent in New York and London. His recent move to the Andy Warhol Museum bodes well for the institution’s exhibition programme.



Associate Curator, Department of Painting and Sculpture, MoMA
New York

Yasmil Raymond, who joined MoMA this year from the DIA Art Foundation, has an impressive track record of introducing some of the brightest and best international artists to an American audience: as a curator at the Walker Art Center from 2004–09, she brought the work of Tino Sehgal and Tomás Saraceno to the US for the first time. But she has also proved adept at working with pioneering figures from previous generations, organising retrospectives of the work of Carl Andre and Franz Erhard Walther, among others.


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