Sarah Newman and Melissa Ho Join Curatorial Team at Smithsonian American Art Museum

By Editorial Team on September 27, 2016

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has enhanced its curatorial staff with two new appointments–Sarah Newman and Melissa Ho–who will bring fresh perspectives to the museum’s collection, and future exhibitions and acquisitions. Newman is the museum’s James Dicke Curator of Contemporary Art. Ho is the curator of 20th-century art. Each will be responsible for research, exhibitions and acquisitions related to the museum’s collection. These two join nine curators currently on stafffor film and media arts, photography, sculpture, contemporary craft, folk and self-taught art, Latino art, 19th-century painting, a chief curator who specializes in 20th-century art and a curator of contemporary interpretation.

Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.
Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Ho began work Aug. 22. Newman began at the museum Sept. 6.

“These new curatorial voices will add terrific energy to the museum’s initiatives and will engage contemporary audiences who are interested in how America became the country it is today,” said Betsy Broun, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

“I am delighted to welcome Sarah and Melissa to the museum’s curatorial team, and look forward to their building the collection to reflect the experience of Americans today with an emphasis on global connections,” said Virginia Mecklenburg, chief curator.

Newman was curator of contemporary art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art from 2008 to 2014. While at the Corcoran, she developed “NOW at the Corcoran,” a series of commissioned exhibitions and performances by emerging and midcareer artists including Mia Feuer, Spencer Finch, Ellen Harvey, Chris Martin and Enoc Perez. In 2011, she organized “30 Americans,” a survey of contemporary African American art, and she curated “Washington Color and Light: Works from the Washington Color School” (2010). Most recently, she has been a guest curator at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, where she is organizing “Theaster Gates: The Minor Arts,” scheduled to open in 2017, and at the Katzen Arts Center at American University, where she curated a midcareer retrospective of Washington, D.C.-based painter Maggie Michael in 2016. Newman earned a bachelor’s degree from Williams College, and a doctorate from the University of California, Berkeley in 2005.

Ho comes to the museum from the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where she was a curator from 2011 to 2016. Recent exhibitions include “Shirin Neshat: Facing History” (2015), which she co-curated with Melissa Chiu, “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler” (2014) and “Barbara Kruger: Belief+Doubt” (2012). Her current project, “ONE THING: VIETNAM, Art and Engagement, 1965-1975,” explores the interaction between the American war in Vietnam and art; it will open at SAAM in 2019. She earned a master’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 2005 and completed coursework for her doctorate. Her thesis examined Hong Kong-born American photographer Tseng Kwong Chi.

The Smithsonian American Art Museum, the nation’s first collection of American art, is an unparalleled record of the American experience with one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. The collection captures the aspirations, character and imagination of the American people in all media. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum has been a leader in identifying and collecting significant aspects of American visual culture, including photography, modern folk art, African American art, media arts and video games. The museum has the largest collection of American sculpture as well as New Deal art, and the finest collections of contemporary craft, American impressionist paintings and masterpieces from the Gilded Age. During the past decade, the museum has focused on building a nationally recognized collection of contemporary art, acquiring works by Cory Arcangel, Mark Bradford, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Will Cotton, Janet Echelman, Teresita Fernández, Jenny Holzer, Maya Lin, Kerry James Marshall, Taryn Simon, Eve Sussman, Mickalene Thomas, Camille Utterback, Leo Villareal, Bill Viola, and Kara Walker, among others.

(via the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Photo courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.)