Randall Griffey, since 2013 a curator in the contemporary and modern art department of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, is departing the institution to serve as head curator of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, DC. Griffey recently cocurated, with Kelly Baum, the widely lauded Alice Neel exhibition “People Come First” at the Met. During his tenure there, he greatly increased the presence of works by women and people of color in the museum’s collection and in its presentations. In his new capacity at the Smithsonian, he will lead the museum’s curatorial program and will oversee a major reinstallation spanning three floors of the museum’s permanent collection galleries.
Griffey is the second key player to exit the Met’s modern and contemporary department this year, with Sheena Wagstaff leaving earlier this month after serving as department chair for nearly a decade. The departures come at a decisive moment for the museum, which will soon begin a $500 million renovation of its modern and contemporary art wing.
“Randy is one of the most dynamic curators and influential scholars in the field of American art today,” said Stephanie Stebich, the Smithsonian’s director. “He is known as an exceedingly generous colleague as well as an agent of institutional innovation. I am confident that he will be a transformative leader in building our collections, mounting defining exhibitions, and rethinking the narrative of American art through the national collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum.”
While at the Met, Griffey curated “Reckoning with Modernism,” part of the musueum’s sesquicentennial exhibition “Making The Met, 1870–2020,” and collaborated with Cree artist Kent Monkman to produce Monkman’s pathbreaking Great Hall Commission mistikộsiwak (Wooden Boat People), a colossal diptych |kent%20monkman artforums|addressing the colonization| of North America and since acquired by the Met for its permanent collection. Before arriving to the Met, he was a curator at the Mead Art Museum at Amherst College from 2008 to 2011, serving there as as head of curatorial affairs in 2012. Prior to that, he was curator of American art at the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City, from 1999 to 2008.
Griffey replaces E. Carmen Ramos, who last year accepted a job as chief curator of the National Gallery of Art, also in Washington, DC. He will assume his new role at the Smithsonian this summer.