Thelma Golden

Top ranked American curator

Photo: Julie Skarratt

At number 8, the top placed American curator in this year’s Power 100 List is Thelma Golden, director at the Studio Museum in Harlem

While the Studio Museum in Harlem may not have the big-museum profile of Manhattan behemoths the Whitney Museum (Adam Weinberg, 12, where Golden also worked from 1988-98, and in 1994 curated the groundbreaking group show ‘Black Male’) or MoMA (Glenn D. Lowry, 17), Golden has over the past two decades, created an institution that provides a sustained platform for African American artists and fostered a sense of open dialogue with its neighbourhood.

Moreover, she has been consistently working towards redefining the histories that are visible in museums and re-shaping the contemporary art landscape, supporting and giving opportunities to artists who are defining the current debates over race, power and identity – providing both creative and institutional models for how these issues might be taken on globally. And while curators don’t define an artist’s career, it certainly helps that someone like Golden is on your side, with many of the artists she has long-running relationships with coming to prominence on this year’s list. The green, black and red African American Flag (1990) by David Hammons (19) has hung out the front of the Studio Museum for years – presumably to return when its new building is completed in 2021 – while it has hosted performances by Theaster Gates (23) and its collection includes works by Kara Walker (56) and Kerry James Marshall (68). Golden’s influence extends well beyond Harlem, helping to shape the way art is seen, discussed and made world-wide.