Thelma Golden, 2012
Oil on linen, 58” x 38”
In 2005, Thelma Golden became the executive director and chief curator for the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she had been the Deputy Director for Exhibitions and Programs since 2000. Thelma began her career as a curatorial assistant at the Whitney Museum of American Art and became the Visual Arts Director at the Jamaica Arts Center in Queens, in 1989. Thelma burst on the New York Art Scene in 1991 when she returned to the Whitney Museum of American Art as Director and Exhibitions Coordinator at the Whitney’s branch at Philip Morris. Thelma received fame and notoriety first as a co-curator of the 1993 Whitney Biennial that showcased overtly political art, including a significant number of female artists of color, whom up to this point were often excluded.
In 1994, Thelma curated a major show at the Whitney, “Black Male,” an exhibition that was both controversial and evocative. This show, described as “brilliantly imagined” and “carefully envisioned” skyrocketed Thelma’s career as a “fearless and formidable” curator. Thelma is known as a powerhouse, an art world icon as a champion of black artists. Thelma Golden is a tour de-de-force.
I met Thelma Golden around 1989 at Gracie Mansion, when we were attending the Mayors Arts Awards Ceremony. Kellie Jones, curator at the Jamaica Arts Center in Queens, introduced Thelma to me. Thelma participated in our meetings to commission artists and we established a professional relationship that would span more than a couple decades. I often think of her as the young woman I met that night, full of excitement and with a twinkle in her eyes, standing on tiptoe at the threshold of a stellar career.
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