Philadelphia Museum of Art appoints two curators to key roles

Effective immediately, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has appointed Carlos Basualdo (left) as the museum’s Marion Boulton “Kippy” Stroud deputy director and chief curator, and appointed Jessica Todd Smith (right) director of curatorial initiatives and the Susan Gray Detweiler curator of American art. Basualdo is the first chief curator of the museum. Images courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Effective immediately, the Philadelphia Museum of Art has appointed Carlos Basualdo (left) as the museum’s Marion Boulton “Kippy” Stroud deputy director and chief curator, and appointed Jessica Todd Smith (right) director of curatorial initiatives and the Susan Gray Detweiler curator of American art. Basualdo is the first chief curator of the museum. Images courtesy of the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

PHILADELPHIA — The Philadelphia Museum of Art has announced the appointment of Carlos Basualdo as the museum’s Marion Boulton “Kippy” Stroud deputy director and chief curator, and of Jessica Todd Smith as director of curatorial initiatives and the Susan Gray Detweiler curator of American art, effective immediately. Each is a seasoned curator and experienced administrator promoted from within the ranks of a talented curatorial staff. Basualdo has served as the Keith L. and Katherine Sachs senior curator of contemporary art since 2005 and becomes the first-ever chief curator of the museum. Smith has served as the Susan Gray Detweiler curator of American art since 2016.

Basualdo currently leads a department that has generated a broad range of exhibitions. He has curated many major exhibitions for the museum, including Bruce Nauman: Topological Gardens in the US Pavilion at the 2009 Venice Biennale, which received the Golden Lion for Best National Participation; Dancing Around the Bride, an innovative presentation in collaboration with Erica Battle in 2012, exploring the legacy of Marcel Duchamp and including live performances of music and dance; Barbara Chase Riboud: The Malcolm X Series, in 2014; and Jasper Johns: Mind/Mirror in 2021-22, the most comprehensive exhibition of the iconic US artist to date, co-curated with Scott Rothkopf and co-organized with the Whitney Museum of American Art.

Under his leadership, the curators in the department of contemporary art have worked closely with Philadelphia artists in such exhibitions as Philadelphia Assembled (2017) and New Grit (2021). In partnership with the Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo in Turin, the contemporary department launched the Future Fields Commission in Time-Based Media in 2017, which has led to important projects with new-generation talents including Rachel Rose and Martine Syms.

Born in Argentina, he was a 2013 fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership, New York.

“It is a great joy and a true honor for me to have an opportunity to serve the Philadelphia Museum of Art as Marion Boulton ’Kippy’ Stroud deputy director and chief curator,” said Basualdo. “I am thrilled at the prospect of working closely with Sasha Suda, and with Jessica Smith, in my new capacity. Like many in the city and beyond, I admired Kippy Stroud for everything she did for the arts, as a true advocate for the local audience, for diversity, and for artists across generations and disciplines. I am both proud and thankful for having been asked to carry that legacy forward.”

As the Susan Gray Detweiler Curator of American Art and Manager of the Center for American Art at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Jessica Todd Smith has been responsible for American painting and sculpture made between 1900 and 1960. She has curated Elegy: Lament in the 20th Century (2022); Painting Identity (2021); Herbert Ferber: Form into Space with Timothy Rub (2019-2022); Horace Pippin: From War to Peace (2019); and Modern Times: American Art 1910−1950 (2018), which was accompanied by the publication American Modernism: Highlights from the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Before arriving in Philadelphia, Smith was the Virginia Steele Scott chief curator of American Art at the Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California, where she worked on three expansions of the American galleries and numerous exhibitions, including Three Fragments of a Lost Tale: Sculpture and Story by John Frame (2011), Pressed in Time: American Prints 1905-1950 (2007), and Edward Weston: A Legacy (2003). She also wrote American Made: Highlights from the Huntington’s Art Collections (2014), the first book to focus on American art at the Huntington.

Smith said: “I am impressed by Sasha’s energy and openness, her ideas about museums today, and her willingness to roll up her sleeves and get to work on creating a new future for the Philadelphia Museum of Art. I look forward to working with her, with Carlos, and with all of my extraordinary curatorial colleagues as we think through evolving perspectives on the arts in general and on our programs in particular.”