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Ashley James Just Became Guggenheim Museum’s First Full-Time Black Curator

Ashley James Just Became Guggenheim Museum’s First Full-Time Black Curator

New York City’s famed Guggenheim Museum just hired Ashley James, it’s first full-time African American curator in the museum’s 60 year history, The New York Times reports. 

James’ new title is associate curator of contemporary art for the Guggenheim. She previously worked at the Brooklyn Museum as an assistant curator where she was an integral part of the renowned exhibition, “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power.” James is also a former Mellon Curatorial Fellow and has worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Yale University Art Gallery. 

Nancy Spector, the Guggenheim’s artistic director and chief curator, issued a statement about James’ new appointment saying, “Her work complements the Guggenheim’s mission to present the art of today which we understand as a deep and expansive view of art history.”

The Guggenheim, like many museums across the country are working to increase diversity among their staff as well as within their board members and their exhibits. A 2015 study by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation showed that only 4% of museum curators, conservators, educators and leaders are Black and African Americans make up only 16% of leadership. James’ appointment represents a much needed shift towards more inclusive practices for major art museums. 

The trailblazing curator spoke about her new title, saying, “I am eager to begin work with my colleagues to develop new research, explore new ideas for exhibitions, programs and publications and continue to expand and shape such a vital collection.”

James is currently a Ph.D. student at Yale where she studies English Literature, African-American studies and women’s, gender and sexuality studies. She is expected to graduate this spring. 

Congratulations Ms. Ashley James! 


Photo credit: Andrew E. Dowe