Santa Barbara Museum of Art names James Glisson as Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art
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Santa Barbara Museum of Art names James Glisson as Chief Curator and Curator of Contemporary Art
James Glisson. Photo credit Ian Byers-Gamber.

SANTA BARBARA, CALIF.- The Santa Barbara Museum of Art announced that James Glisson, PhD has been named Chief Curator and will continue in his role as Curator of Contemporary Art, effective July 1, 2024. Glisson had been Curator of Contemporary Art since his hire in February 2020.

“I am delighted that James has agreed to lead the curatorial programs at the Museum. His commitment to scholarly rigor and community outreach sets us on a strong course for the future,” says Amada Cruz, Eichholz Foundation Director. During his tenure at the Santa Barbara Museum of Art, Glisson has been active in curating significant exhibitions, including Going Global: Abstract Art at Mid-Century (2022), Out of Joint: Joan Tanner (2023), Scenes from a Marriage: Ed & Nancy Kienholz (2023), Inside/Outside (2023), Serenity and Revolution (2024), and the current presentation Made by Hand/Born Digital (2024). The Architecture of Collage: Marshall Brown (2022) was accompanied by a multi-author scholarly catalogue published by the Swiss firm Park Books and distributed by the University of Chicago Press. He has been responsible for the Museum’s acquisition of more than 100 artworks, including significant pieces by Daniel Lind-Ramos, Ilana Savdie, Marshall Brown, Ann Craven, Narsiso Martinez, Shizu Saldamando, Gisela Colón, Yassi Mazandi, Nancy and Ed Kienholz, Jane Dickson, Rose Salane, Forest Kirk, Wyatt Kahn, Awol Erizku, Keith Mayerson, Vian Sora, Helen Frankenthaler, Edie Fake, Jessie Mockrin, Garth Weiser, Joan Mitchell, Claire Tabouret, Whitney Bedford, and Elliott Hundley.

The Chief Curator role directly oversees the curators, is responsible for shaping the exhibition and acquisition program, and leads the registration staff, who care for the Museum’s nearly 26,000 artworks that span thousands of years. Glisson insists that the Chief Curator should amplify the talents and skills of the Museum’s two curators, who will now report to him. He says, “The Museum is lucky to have two outstanding professionals in Susan Tai, Elizabeth Atkins Curator of Asian Art, and Charlie Wylie, Curator of Photography and New Media. Both have fostered warm and collegial relations within the Santa Barbara community and beyond, not to mention an enviable track record of exhibitions and acquisitions. Susan’s recent exhibition Flowers on a River: The Art of Chinese Flower-and-Bird Painting, 1368-1911 and Charlie’s Janna Ireland: True Story Index are models of local, national, and international collaboration. One job of the chief curator is to nurture more projects like these, while also supporting the registration staff in their role as the collection’s caretakers.”

Prior to SBMA, Glisson worked at The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, where he served as the Interim Virginia Steele Scott Chief Curator of American Art, while continuing in his role as Bradford and Christine Mishler Associate Curator of American Art. At the Huntington, he had an integral role in bringing contemporary art into the institution’s regular programming. During his time there, he curated or co-curated a wide range of exhibitions, including A World of Strangers: Crowds in American Art, Frederick Hammersley: To Paint without Thinking, Real American Places: Edward Weston, Nineteen Nineteen, the Huntington’s centennial exhibition, and True Grit: American Prints, 1900 to 1950, which he co-curated for the Getty Museum. At the Huntington, he was instrumental in the founding of /five, a highly successful exhibition initiative that integrated contemporary art into the museum’s programming in order to attract new audiences. His projects there received awards from the American Library Association, American Alliance of Museums, and Choice Magazine, which named a catalogue about American folk art an Outstanding Academic Title.

He previously held curatorial posts at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Saint Louis Art Museum, and the Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. He earned his PhD in Art History from Northwestern University and an M.A. in Art History from the State University of New York, Stony Brook. He earned a BA in Art History at New College of Florida, a public liberal arts college.

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