BAHM | 2.9.18 | Lowery Stokes Sims
Lowery Stokes Sims is a curator and scholar of contemporary art. She began her career at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on the education and curatorial staff from 1972 to 1999, working as the museums first and only black curator. After two and a half decades with the Met, she served as Executive Director, President, and Adjunct Curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem from 2000 to 2007, where she brought on Thelma Golden as Deputy Director. Golden, alluding to the incredible influence Sims has had on a new generation of curators, is quoted as saying, “When, at age 13, I read a profile of Dr. Sims in The New York Times, I had for the first time a literal picture of who I might be in the world and what I might accomplish.” In 2015, Sims retired as Chief Curator at NY's Museum of Art and Design, after 8 years. She continues to be active as an independent curator and contributes to panel discussions and lectures internationally, advocating for artists of color.
While at the Met, Sims curated several influential exhibitions, including traveling exhibitions of black artists, such as, I Tell My Heart: The Art of Horace Pippin (Museum of the Pennsylvania Academy of Art) and Barbara Chase-Riboud: Monument Drawings (St. John's Museum). She also introduced the work of several black artists into the permanent collection, including Robert Colescott, Faith Ringgold, Adrian Piper, Betye Saar, and Lorna Simpson.
At the Studio Museum in Harlem, Sims advocated for the Museum as a resource for young black artists, reflected in its long-standing Residency program. In 2003, she curated, Challenge of the Modern: African American Artists 1925-1945, a monumental exhibition which examined the differences of Modernism in the work of black artists such as Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Jacob Lawrence, Wifredo Lam, Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, Hale Woodruff and James VanDerZee.
In 2010, Sims and Leslie King Hammond co-curated The Global Africa Project, which traces the influence of African art and design through a diverse range of modern craft and design. And in 2013, she curated Against the Grain: Wood in Contemporary Art, Craft and Design, an exhibition looking at variations in the use of wood. The last exhibition she curated before her retirement from MAD in 2015 was titled, New Territories: Laboratories for Design, Craft and Art in Latin America, which showcased the work of 75 artists, pushing the boundaries in their field.