Thelma Golden Wins Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence

Her commitment to the Studio Museum was lauded as "exemplary."

Thelma Golden Photo: The Studio Museum, Harlem via Facebook
Thelma Golden: Director and Chief Curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem Photo: Patrick McMullan

Thelma Golden: Director and Chief Curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem
Photo: Patrick McMullan

Thelma Golden has been named the winner of the 2016 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence. Golden, the director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, will accept the award from artist Glenn Ligon at a gala celebration on April 6.

The prize, worth $25,000, is awarded annually by the Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College (CSS Bard), and honors the achievements of leading curators and those who have made a lasting contribution to exhibition making.

In a statement, executive director of CSS Bard, Tom Eccles, said “Through her timely exhibitions, critical thinking, and eloquent, intelligent advocacy, Thelma Golden has demonstrated that curating is of crucial importance, raising issues and developing ideas that are central to our time.”

“Her commitment to the Studio Museum in Harlem is both exemplary and inspirational,” he added.

Studio Museum in Harlem director Thelma Golden and artist Glenn Ligon with the bag he designed with MZ Wallace. Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Studio Museum in Harlem director Thelma Golden will be presented with the award by artist Glenn Ligon.
Photo: Sarah Cascone.

Golden’s career has been strongly linked to Harlem’s Studio Museum where she started her career in 1987. After a successful decade at the Whitney Museum between 1988 and 1998, where she served as a member of the curatorial team for the 1993 Biennial, Golden returned to the Studio Museum in 2000 to become the institution’s deputy director of exhibitions and programs, and eventually became executive director in 2005.

Under her stewardship the Studio Museum has built a reputation as a venue for diverse exchanges of ideas about art and society through critically acclaimed exhibitions including shows with Chris Ofili and Ligon.

Furthermore, Golden increased visitor numbers, expanded the museum’s collection by almost 2,000 works, and bolstered the institution’s educational and public programs. And in July last year the museum announced that it plans to construct a new building by architect David Adjaye, specially designed for its collection.

Thelma Golden has shaped Harlem's Studio Museum. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Thelma Golden has shaped Harlem’s Studio Museum.
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 2015, Golden was also invited to serve on New York City’s cultural advisory committee, and was appointed by to the board of the Presidential Library by Barack Obama.

Golden was selected by an independent panel of leading contemporary curators, museum directors, and artists. 2016 marks the 18th occasion the prize has been awarded.

Other notable winners include Paul Schimmel (2001), Walter Hopps (2004), Okwui Enwezor (2009), and Hans Ulrich Obrist (2011).


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