Thelma Golden

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Thelma Golden
Born 1965 (age 49–50)
Nationality American
Occupation Museum Director and Chief Curator
Years active 1987 (1987)–present

Thelma Golden (born 1965) is the Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, USA.[1] Golden joined the Museum as Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs in 2000 before succeeding Dr. Lowery Stokes Sims, the Museum’s former Director and President, in 2005.


Early life and education[edit]

Thelma Golden grew up in Queens, New York.[2] She had her first hands-on training as a senior in high school at the New Lincoln School, training as a curatorial apprentice at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She graduated from Buckley Country Day School in 1980 and earned a BA in Art History and African-American Studies from Smith College in 1987. She worked as an intern at the Studio Museum while in college, in 1985.[2]


Golden's first curatorial position was at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1987. She was then a curator at the Whitney Museum of American Art from 1988 to 1998. She became director of the Whitney in 1991[3] and organized many notable exhibitions, including the controversial 1993 Biennial,[4] directed by Elisabeth Sussman; Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary Art (1994–95); Bob Thompson: A Retrospective (1998); Heart, Mind, Body, Soul: New Work from the Collection (1998); and Hindsight: Recent Work from the Permanent Collection (1999).

Known for her support and championship of emerging artists, Golden created a site-specific commissioning program for the Whitney’s branch museum at Altria (formerly Philip Morris), and presented projects there by artists such as Alison Saar, Glenn Ligon, Gary Simmons (artist), Romare Bearden, Matthew McCaslin, Suzanne McClelland, Lorna Simpson, Jacob Lawrence and Leone & MacDonald.[citation needed]

Golden was the Special Projects Curator for contemporary art collectors Peter Norton and Eileen Harris Norton from 1998 to 2000.[citation needed]

Since joining the Studio Museum in 2000, Golden has organized a number of groundbreaking exhibitions, including Isaac Julien: Vagabondia (2000), Martin Puryear: The Cane Project (2000); Glenn Ligon: Stranger (2001); the Freestyle Exhibition (2001); Black Romantic: The Figurative Impulse in Contemporary Art (2002); harlemworld: Metropolis as Metaphor (2004); Chris Ofili: Afro Muses (2005); Frequency (2005–06, with Christine Y. Kim); Africa Comics (2006–07); and Kori Newkirk: 1997–2007 (2007–08). She also works to expand and strengthen the museum’s presence in the local community and the global art world.

Golden is an active guest curator, writer, lecturer, juror, and advisor. In 2009 she presented "How Art Gives Shape to Cultural Change" at the TED conference's 25th Anniversary gathering in Palm Springs, California.[5] In 2008 she was a member of the advisory team of the Whitney Biennial and in 2007 acted as a juror for the UK Turner Prize. Golden co-curated the traveling exhibition Glenn Ligon: Some Changes in 2005 and in 2004 curated a retrospective of fashion designer Patrick Kelly at the Brooklyn Museum. Known for her interviews with contemporary artists, Golden is a frequent contributor to books, catalogues, and magazines and regularly speaks at institutions around the world as well as teaching at various universities.[citation needed] Golden serves on the Graduate Committee at the Center for Curatorial Studies at Bard College, is on the boards of Creative Time in New York and the Institute of International Visual Arts (inIVA) in London, and is a Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.



  1. ^ Biography: Thelma Golden, Frieze Foundation, USA.
  2. ^ a b Pogrebin, Robin (July 6, 2015). "Studio Museum in Harlem Unveils Design for Expansion". New York times. Retrieved July 6, 2015. 
  3. ^ Anderson, Susan Heller (May 8, 1991). "Chronicle". New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2015. 
  4. ^ Richardson, Linda (May 1, 2001). "The art of plunging in without fear". New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2015. 
  5. ^ "How art gives shape to cultural change". Retrieved March 7, 2015. 
  6. ^ "25 Art World Women at the Top, From Sheikha Al-Mayassa to Yoko Ono". Artnet. Retrieved April 18, 2014. 

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