Smithsonian American Art Museum Hires Met’s Star Modern Art Curator

Randall Griffey, a curator in the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s modern and contemporary art department who has organized a string of acclaimed shows, has joined the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C., as its new head curator.

At the Smithsonian American Art Museum, where he will begin this summer, Griffey will oversee a reinstallation of the institution’s permanent collection galleries and supervise the curatorial staff. The lead curatorial role was most recently filled by E. Carmen Ramos, who served as acting chief curator and departed the institution last year to be chief curator of the National Gallery of Art.

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Griffey joined the Met in 2013. Among the shows he has organized there is a well-received Alice Neel retrospective in 2020, which he co-curated with Kelly Baum. Other shows by him, such as a 2019 Kent Monkman commission for the museum’s Great Hall and a 2017 survey of Marsden Hartley’s ties to Maine, have also earned praise.

Stephanie Stebich, the director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, said in a statement, “Randy is one of the most dynamic curators and influential scholars in the field of American art today.”

The planned reinstallation of the Smithsonian American Art Museum galleries will not be the first project of the sort that Griffey has over seen. In 2015, under the exhibition title “Reimagining Modernism: 1900–1950,” Griffey rehung the Met’s modern art galleries to place various forms of modernism in the U.S. and Europe on equal footing, and introducing under-recognized figures like Hale Woodruff and Elizabeth Catlett in the process.

“This shouldn’t be radical. It is. At least for New York,” New York Times critic Roberta Smith wrote of Griffey’s rehang.

Griffey is the second major figure in the Met’s modern and contemporary art department to leave this year. Last month, Sheena Wagstaff, the department’s chairman, left the Met after nearly a decade in her post. During that time, she oversaw the Met’s now-defunct contemporary art annex, the Met Breuer.

Both Griffey and Wagstaff have departed at a crucial moment, since the department is gearing up for the planned building of a new $500 million wing for modern and contemporary art.


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