After its longtime chief curator unexpectedly left last year, the Guggenheim Museum in New York has found a replacement in Naomi Beckwith, currently the senior curator of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago. Beckwith will start as the Guggenheim’s deputy director and chief curator in June.
Beckwith has been at the MCA Chicago since 2011. During that time, she organized a number of celebrated shows, including most notably a Howardena Pindell retrospective that opened in 2018 and later traveled to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts in Richmond and Brandeis University’s Rose Art Museum in Waltham, Massachusetts. She also worked on exhibitions devoted to Keren Cytter, Leslie Hewitt, William J. O’Brien, the Propeller Group, and Yinka Shonibare, among others.
Prior to the MCA, Beckwith was an associate curator at New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem, where she established herself as a talent to watch. Her curatorial credits there included a Lynette Yiadom-Boakye show and “30 Seconds Off an Inch,” an acclaimed survey focused on the thin boundary between art and life as viewed by Black artists. She is currently on the curatorial team of “Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America,” an Okwui Enwezor–curated survey due to open at the New Museum next month.
In a statement, Beckwith said, “One cannot overstate the iconicity and consequence of the Guggenheim Museum—yet, refusing to rest on its laurels, it readily presents projects that disrupt art history’s mythologies. I’m excited to join the Guggenheim and its passionate team at a pivotal moment. I look forward to merging our shared goals of expanding the story of art, and also working to shape a new reality for arts and culture.”
Beckwith’s appointment comes as the Guggenheim grapples with accusations that its leadership fostered a racist environment. The last person to hold the chief curator post, Nancy Spector, departed following accusations made by Chaédria LaBouvier, an independent curator who organized a Jean-Michel Basquiat show at the museum. An independent review found no evidence of racism at the museum.
Beckwith will be the first Black curator to hold her new position at the museum. In 2019, the Guggenheim hired Ashley James as associate curator of contemporary art, making her the first full-time Black curator in the museum’s history.
Richard Armstrong, the Guggenheim’s director, said in a statement, “With her highly regarded accomplishments, scholarship that contributes to building a revised canon of art history, and creative projects that connect artists of today with growing audiences, Naomi Beckwith will be a catalytic leader for our outstanding curatorial team”