Thelma Golden: How art gives shape to cultural change.
“The privilege I’ve had as a curator is not just the discovery of new works … but what I’ve discovered about myself and what I can offer in the space of an exhibition — to talk about beauty, to talk about power, to talk about ourselves, and to talk and speak to each other.”
Culling an interest in art history from a childhood board game, Thelma Golden knew her dream job even before she knew what to call it. She stumbled upon the title and role she was looking for – curator – at the age of 12, and started up the ladder early, landing at the Whitney Museum in 1991, four years out of college.
She was a co-curator of the 1993 Whitney Biennial, a landmark show, hotly debated at the time, that showcased overtly political art made by a significant percentage of nonwhite nonmales.
Golden first burst into the limelight as a solo curator with “The Black Male” at the Whitney in 1994. Brilliantly imagined and carefully envisioned (and provoking controversy from a few corners), the show cemented her reputation as a formidable and fearless curator.
In 2005, Golden became executive director for the Studio Museum in Harlem, re-dedicating the institution to forward-facing art from all corners of the African Diaspora.
She keeps an eye on young and developing artists, while using the Studio Museum to write the history of collecting and art-making in Harlem and around the world.
“As a black woman curator in an overwhelming white male art world, Golden has long fostered art that burns with racial and gender issues.”