Baltimore Museum of Art Names Jessica Bell Brown Head Of Contemporary Art

The Baltimore Museum of Art announced Thursday that it had promoted art historian Jessica Bell Brown to curator and the new head of its contemporary art department.  Brown had previously served as an associate curator of contemporary art since joining the institution in 2019.

In her new role, Brown will now oversee two associate curators, two curatorial assistants, and a curatorial fellow, as well as manage the museum’s growing collection of contemporary art and continue to organize exhibitions.

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“Since joining the BMA, Jessica has positioned artists’ voices at the core of her curatorial work, creating new platforms to experience art as envisioned by its makers and bridging institutional and artistic visions and approaches,” Asma Naeem, interim co-director and chief curator, said in a statement. “Her vision, keen insights, and commitment to artists will be integral as the BMA continues to diversify its collections and expand the narratives of art through its exhibitions and programs.”

One of the more notable exhibitions Brown has curated is an exploration of the Great Migration, titled “A Movement in Every Direction: Legacies of the Great Migration,” which she co-curated with Ryan N. Dennis, the chief curator of the Mississippi Museum of Art. The Great Migration was an exodus of more than six million African Americans from the rural South from the early 20th century to the 1970s. The mass movement produced a new Black urban culture in the North and West towns and cities they settled in.

For the exhibition, Brown and Dennis commissioned 12 intergenerational Black artists to make new work delving into this major historical and cultural shift through a personal lens. The exhibition opens at the MMA on Saturday, before traveling to the BMA in October.

Last year, Brown contributed a short response for our sister publication Art in America on the future of the museum, writing:

An Affirmation:

The future does not belong to the whims of navel gazers.

Never more than now, the future belongs to rigor. It belongs to integrity. The future is for expansiveness. The future is specificity.

The future is polyphonic. The future is most fertile on the edges of the canon. The future is collectivity. The future is rest. The future is tender. The future is you.

Prior to joining the BMA, Brown served as a consulting curator at Gracie Mansion Conservancy in New York and held posts at three other New York institutions: Museum of Modern Art, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, and Creative Time.


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