Thelma Golden

Thelma Golden is Director and Chief Curator of The Studio Museum in Harlem, an art museum founded in 1968 whose mission is to serve as the nexus for artists of African descent locally, nationally and internationally. Golden began her career at the Studio Museum in 1987 before joining the Whitney Museum of American Art in 1988. In a decade at the Whitney, she was a member of the curatorial team for the 1993 Biennial, organized numerous groundbreaking exhibitions including 1994’s Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in American Art, and served as Director of the Whitney Museum at Phillip Morris. She returned to the Studio Museum in 2000 and was named Director and Chief Curator in 2005. While at the Studio Museum, Golden has organized many notable exhibitions including Chris Ofili: Afro Muses 1995-2005, Black Romantic, Freestyle, Frequency, Glenn Ligon: Stranger and Gordon Parks: A Harlem Family 1967. Under her leadership, the Studio Museum has gained increasing renown as a global leader in the exhibition of contemporary art, a center for innovative education and a site for diverse audiences to exchange ideas about art and society.

Golden holds a B.A. in Art History and African American Studies from Smith College and honorary doctorates from Bard College, the City College of New York, Columbia University, and Smith College. Golden was appointed to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House by President Obama in 2010, and in 2015 joined the Barack Obama Foundation’s Board of Directors. Golden was the recipient of the 2016 Audrey Irmas Award for Curatorial Excellence. In 2018, Golden was awarded a J. Paul Getty Medal. She is an active lecturer and panelist speaking about contemporary art and culture at national and international institutions.


  • The Studio Museum in HarlemThe Studio Museum in Harlem 23 years 9 months
    • Director and Chief Curator 2005 – Present · 18 years 9 months
    • Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs 2000 – 2005 · 5 years
  • Special Projects Curator Peter Norton Family Foundation 1998 – 1999
  • Whitney Museum of American Art Whitney Museum of American Art 7 years
    • Associate Curator and Director of Branch Museums 1993 – 1995
    • Branch Director Branch Director 1991 – 1993
  • Curatorial Assistant to Dr. Kellie Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning, Inc. 1990 – 1991
  • Curatorial Assistant Whitney Museum of American Art 1988 – 1990
  • Curatorial Fellow The Studio Museum in Harlem 1987 – 1988
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