Metropolitan Museum of Art Hires Kelly Baum as Contemporary Art Curator

Kelly Baum. Photo: Frank Wojciechowski.
Kelly Baum. Photo: Frank Wojciechowski.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has appointed Kelly Baum of the Princeton University Art Museum as curator of postwar and contemporary art in the museum’s department of modern and contemporary art.

The Met has been hunting for a replacement for Nicholas Cullinan, recently named director of London’s National Portrait Gallery (see National Portrait Gallery Appoints Nicholas Cullinan as Director), since January (see Hate Your Job? The Met Seeks Postwar and Contemporary Art Curator).

In a statement, Met director and CEO Thomas P. Campbell praised Baum’s selection, saying that “her broad engagement with post-World War II international art makes her a great asset to the curatorial team headed by Sheena Wagstaff.”

Metropolitan Museum of Art Photo: Carlos Delgado via Wikimedia Commons

Metropolitan Museum of Art.
Photo: Carlos Delgado via Wikimedia Commons

“Kelly will join the department during this exciting period as we reconsider our programming and the visitor experience within the Met’s modern and contemporary art wing and as we look forward to the opening of the Met Breuer,” Campbell added about the March 2016 opening of its expanded modern and contemporary programming in the former home of the Whitney Museum at 75th Street and Madison Avenue. (See Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Breuer Building Programming Spans from Diane Arbus to Vijay Iyer and Gut Renovation for the Met’s Modern and Contemporary Wing.)

Baum, who starts July 1, comes to the museum after five years in Princeton, where she was the institution’s founding curator of the department of modern and contemporary art. There, she organized such exhibitions as “Doug Aitken: migration (empire)” (2010); Felix Gonzalez-Torres: ‘Untitled’” (2013), and the Warhol Curatorial Research Fellowship–winning “New Jersey as Non-Site” (2013).

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, <em>Untitled</em> (1991), part of the artist's Billboard Project as seen at Artpace Foundation, San Antonio (2010).  Photo: Tom DuBrock, © the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery.

Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Untitled (1991), part of the artist’s Billboard Project as seen at Artpace Foundation, San Antonio (2010).
Photo: Tom DuBrock, © the Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation, courtesy Andrea Rosen Gallery.

Though it is among the world’s finest encyclopedia museums, the Met has not been traditionally known for its contemporary programming, something the institution hopes to change with Met Breuer and its upcoming renovation. Coming from Princeton, Baum is well-suited to the task.

“[The contemporary collection] was very safe; it wasn’t risky. It was dominated by the work of white men, and so it lacked diversity in terms of the artists, in terms of the works of art,” she told Princeton Alumni Weekly this past March.

During her tenure, Baum helped the museum acquire over 100 works of art, with a focus on women artists, international artists, and artists of color, as well as on diversity of media.

She also established an endowed artist-in-residence program which has hosted such international artists as Goshka Macuga, Thomas Hirschhorn, and El Anatsui. Serving as a curatorial adviser to the campus art committee, Baum helped realize commissioned works from Odili Donald Odita and Ursula von Rydingsvard.


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