Key Jo Lee tapped as San Francisco’s Museum of African Diaspora chief curator

Lee goes to MoAD after five years at The Cleveland Museum of Art.

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The Museum of African Diaspora (MoAD) in San Francisco has appointed Key Jo Lee as its new chief of curatorial affairs and public programs, reports

“Key Jo Lee is a major up-and-coming talent in the field, and we are absolutely thrilled to be bringing her on board to move MoAD towards becoming a global leader in the space of contemporary art of the African Diaspora,” said Monetta White, MoAD’s executive director.

Continued White, “It took us a year to find the right person for this role, and it was so worth the wait. With her bold vision, insightful scholarship, wide-ranging museum experience, and can-do attitude, Key Jo Lee is not only a perfect fit for MoAD, but will be a gamechanger.

Key Jo Lee is the new chief of curatorial affairs and public programs at the Museum of African Diaspora in San Francisco. (Credit: Amber Ford)

As a museum educator, Lee specializes in American art history, photographic history and theory, as well as African American studies. During her professional career as a curatorial star, she has overseen numerous projects by artists of the Black diaspora, including “Currents and Constellations: Black Art in Focus,’’ which was on display earlier this year at The Cleveland Museum of Art (CMA).

Featuring works by 25 emerging and mid-career Black artists, the exhibition showcased some of the nation’s foremost Black artists who addressed America’s racial divide in the 20th and 21st centuries.

“I am honored and delighted to embark on this new endeavor,’’ Lee said of joining MoAD. “I believe deeply in MoAD’s mission to highlight art and artists of the Black diaspora, and I think it is the perfect place to express and expand my curatorial vision, which centers on innovative, multisensorial, and rigorous exhibitions that make visible and accessible our complex global histories.”

Others in the art world are also pleased about Lee’s new role. “What excites me about seeing Key Jo Lee occupy this new position is a matter of scale,” said Ashley James, associate curator, contemporary art, Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, via Art Daily. “How on the one hand she can articulate the big picture, high level stakes of Black art and its multiple narratives, while at the same time attending to the details and specificities, even the very physics of art.”

Lee comes to MoAD after spending five years at the CMA, where she started as assistant director of academic affairs. In 2020, she was promoted to director of academic affairs and associate curator of special projects and later to associate curator of American art.

A Mellon Foundation grant supports Lee’s newly created position, the museum announced in a statement on Friday. She will start in January.

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