Thelma Golden

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For other uses, see Thelma Golden (softball).

Thelma Golden
BornSeptember 22, 1965
Queens, NY
OccupationMuseum Director and Chief Curator
Years active1987 (1987)–present

Thelma Golden (born 1965 in St. Albans, Queens[1]) is the Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York City, United States.[2] 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. She is noted as one of the originators of the term Post-Blackness.


Early life and education[edit]

Thelma Golden grew up in Queens, New York.[3] 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. Golden's decision to become a curator was inspired by Lowery Stokes Sims, the first African-American curator of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.[1] She graduated from Buckley Country Day School in 1980 and earned a B.A. in Art History and African-American Studies from Smith College in 1987.[4] While at Smith, she worked as an intern at The Studio Museum in 1985.[3]


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. Golden was the visual arts director at the Jamaica Arts Center in Queens[5] before she became director of the Whitney Museum's outpost in midtown Manhattan (since closed) in 1991.[6] She organized many notable exhibitions, including the controversial 1993 Biennial,[7] directed by Elisabeth Sussman; Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary Art (1994–95);[8] Bob Thompson: A Retrospective (1998);[9] 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 she presented projects by meaningful artists: Alison Saar, Glenn Ligon,[1] Gary Simmons (artist), Romare Bearden, Matthew McCaslin, Suzanne McClelland, Lorna Simpson, Jacob Lawrence,[1] 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.[10]

Since joining the Studio Museum in 2000[1] as deputy director for exhibitions,[11] 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);[12] Frequency (2005–06),[1] with Christine Y. Kim; Africa Comics (2006–07); and Kori Newkirk: 1997–2007 (2007–08). In 2005 she became the Studio Museum's director and chief curator.[13] She also works to expand and strengthen the museum’s presence in the local community and the global art world. The Studio Museum's visitorship has increased during her tenure as director, and a $122 million expansion is underway.[14] Designed by Adjaye Associates and Cooper Robertson, it will be the museum's first purpose-built expansion.[15][16]

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.[17] Her talk examined how contemporary artists continue to shape dialogue about race, culture, and community.[15] In 2008, she was a member of the advisory team of the Whitney Biennial[18] and in 2007 acted as a juror for the UK Turner Prize. In 2004, Golden curated a retrospective of fashion designer Patrick Kelly at the Brooklyn Museum. She then co-curated the traveling exhibition Glenn Ligon: Some Changes in 2005. 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 a member of the Association of Art Museum Directors,[19] is on the boards of Creative Time in New York and the Institute of International Visual Arts (inIVA) in London, and was a 2008 Henry Crown Fellow at the Aspen Institute.[19] The New York City's cultural advisory committee invited Golden to serve on their committee in 2015.[20] In 2016, Golden became a member on the board of trustees at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA).[21]

In 2010, Golden was appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House.[22] During Obama's presidency, in 2015,[22] Golden joined the board of directors at the Obama Foundation as she had been asked to organize the design and plan of the presidential library.[23] Golden served on the Committee for the Preservation of the White House until 2016.[24]


Golden married London-based fashion designer Duro Olowu in 2008.[25]



  1. ^ a b c d e f Smith, Jennifer (July 17, 2015). "Thelma Golden: Steering the Studio Museum Ahead". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  2. ^ Biography: Thelma Golden, Frieze Foundation Archived August 1, 2012, at, USA.
  3. ^ a b Pogrebin, Robin (July 6, 2015). "Studio Museum in Harlem Unveils Design for Expansion". New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  4. ^ "President Obama Announces Members of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House". February 3, 2010. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  5. ^ Anderson, Susan Heller. "CHRONICLE". Retrieved June 12, 2018.
  6. ^ Anderson, Susan Heller (May 8, 1991). "Chronicle". New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  7. ^ Richardson, Linda (May 1, 2001). "The art of plunging in without fear". New York Times. Retrieved July 6, 2015.
  8. ^ "Thelma Golden Knows That Showing Great Art Means Nurturing New Artists". Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  9. ^ Vogel, Carol (November 6, 1998). "Inside Art". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 8, 2018.
  10. ^ Parker, Ian. "Golden touch; in Harlem, Thelma Golden has big plans for contemporary art." The New Yorker, 14 Jan. 2002, p. 44+. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 9 Mar. 2017.
  11. ^ "President Obama Announces Members of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House". February 3, 2010. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  12. ^ "Chris Ofili Afromuses 1995- 2005 @ The Studio Museum in Harlem - Lux Lotus". Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  13. ^ "Thelma Golden Knows That Showing Great Art Means Nurturing New Artists". March 19, 2018. Retrieved June 15, 2018.
  14. ^ DeRuy, Emily. "Four Ways Thelma Golden Might Make Obama's Presidential Library Different". The Atlantic. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  15. ^ a b "Thelma Golden | The Studio Museum in Harlem". Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  16. ^ "The Studio Museum Has a Vision for Its Home. And a Power Player at the Helm". Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  17. ^ "How art gives shape to cultural change". Retrieved March 7, 2015.
  18. ^ Cotter, Holland (March 7, 2008). "Whitney Biennial 2008- Art- Review". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved June 9, 2018.
  19. ^ a b "President Obama Announces Members of the Committee for the Preservation of the White House". February 3, 2010. Retrieved August 28, 2018.
  20. ^ "Thelma Goldman Joins NYC Cultural Affairs Committee -artnet News". artnet News. October 27, 2015. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  21. ^ Ng, David. "LACMA adds three trustees, strengthens entertainment industry ties". Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  22. ^ a b "Thelma Golden Knows That Showing Great Art Means Nurturing New Artists". Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  23. ^ Siegal, Nina (2017). "Thelma Golden" Modern Painter. ESCO Host. p. 42.
  24. ^ "Thelma Golden | The Studio Museum in Harlem". Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  25. ^ Indvik, Lauren (June 24, 2016). "The Anti-Power Couple: Duro Olowu and Thelma Golden". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 17, 2018.
  26. ^ Admin, Website (July 27, 2015). "CCNY's 163rd Commencement Set For May 28; President Gregory Williams To Address Graduates | The City College of New York". Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  27. ^ "Stellar Performances | Barnard College". Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  28. ^ "25 Art World Women at the Top, From Sheikha Al-Mayassa to Yoko Ono". Artnet. Retrieved April 18, 2014.
  29. ^ "Curator Thelma Golden Wins Excellence Award - artnet News". artnet News. March 2, 2016. Retrieved March 9, 2017.
  30. ^ "Americans for the Arts Announces National Arts Awards Honorees". Americans for the Arts. October 3, 2017. Retrieved September 1, 2018.
  31. ^ "J. Paul Getty Trust Announces J. Paul Getty Medal to Go to Thelma Golden, Agnes Gund and Richard Serra | News from the Getty". Retrieved September 1, 2018.

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