Photograph of Karen Lemmey by Bruce Schwarz

Karen Lemmey

The Lucy S. Rhame Curator of Sculpture

Karen Lemmey is the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s curator of sculpture; she joined the museum’s staff in 2012. Lemmey is responsible for research, exhibitions and acquisitions related to the museum’s extensive sculpture collection, which is the largest collection of American sculpture in the world. Her research interests include public art and monuments, the history of materials and methods, American artist colonies in 19th-century Italy, the depiction of race in American sculpture, the history of sculpture conservation, and direct carving. See full staff bio.


  • Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/​Modern
    Isamu Noguchi (1904-1988) was among the most innovative American sculptors of the twentieth century, creating works that were far ahead of his time.
    November 11, 2016 March 18, 2017
  • Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions
    Martin Puryear (b. 1941) is widely celebrated for his elegant but playful sculptures and his devotion to craft. His drawings and prints are less well known, but they are equally essential to the artist’s studio practice.
    May 26, 2016 September 4, 2016
  • Measured Perfection: Hiram Powers’ Greek Slave
    This one-gallery exhibition reveals the inner workings of the studio of Hiram Powers (1805–1873), who was among the most innovative sculptors of the nineteenth century, eagerly adapting long-standing sculpture traditions to new technologies of his age.
    July 2, 2015 July 8, 2017
  • Direct Carving
    Spontaneous! Truthful! Liberating! Direct carvers often used such words to describe their unconventional method of sculpting, in which an artist works directly on a piece of stone or wood as opposed to with a model, cast, or preconceived design.
    February 6, 2015 March 13, 2020