Saisha Grayson Joins the Smithsonian American Art Museum as Curator of Time-Based Media

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Saisha Grayson has joined the staff at the Smithsonian American Art Museum as the curator of time-based media. She began work March 19. Grayson joins 11 curators currently on staff for contemporary art, photography, sculpture, contemporary craft, folk and self-taught art, Latino art, 19th-century painting and a chief curator who specializes in 20th-century art. The museum’s time-based media holdings emphasize the breadth of the field to include 16mm black-and-white films, computer-driven cinema, artistic video games, closed-circuit installations, digital animations and more. The department was established with consulting senior media curator John Hanhardt and significantly expanded by film and media arts curator Michael Mansfield, whom Grayson replaces.

Grayson’s responsibilities include research, exhibitions and acquisitions related to the museum’s distinguished collection of time-based media arts. Her research interests include contemporary American art as well as medieval art, film studies, feminist theory and political science. She comes to the museum from the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art at the Brooklyn Museum, where she was assistant curator from 2011 to 2016. While there, Grayson served as organizing curator of “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” (2013), the site-specific exhibition “Chitra Ganesh: Eyes of Time” (2014) and co-curated the experimental group exhibition “Agitprop!” (2015). For her first program at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, she has invited immersive installation and media artist Saya Woolfalk to present July 22 at the popular annual event SAAM Arcade. 

“We are delighted to welcome Saisha to our curatorial staff,” said Stephanie Stebich, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. “She brings deep expertise in media and time-based arts, as well as new perspectives on this genre from her engagement with feminist art, performance and participatory exhibition projects.”

Grayson earned a master’s degree from Columbia University (2008) and recently completed her doctorate at the Graduate Center, CUNY; her dissertation is titled “Cellist, Catalyst, Collaborator: The Work of Charlotte Moorman.” Her writing on contemporary media and performance art has appeared in numerous journals and catalogs. She taught art history at Queens College, CUNY and Ithaca College, and has guest lectured at Sarah Lawrence College, The New School and the Maryland Institute College of Arts. She was awarded a predoctoral fellowship at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in 2016 and a Luce/ACLS Dissertation Fellowship in American Art in 2017. 

“It is an incredibly exciting moment to take up this role at SAAM,” said Grayson. “Time-based media is a strength for the museum, and a field in which American artists have distinguished themselves over the last 100 years. It is also now an ever-present part of contemporary life, from the screens that surround us, to the digital personas we perform and cultivate. There is an extraordinary opportunity to spur engagement with and reflection on our increasingly immersive media landscape.”

The Smithsonian American Art Museum is home to one of the largest and most inclusive collections of American art in the world, revealing America’s diverse artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The collection includes significant works by Cory Arcangel, Sadie Benning, Hans Breder, Rico Gatson, Takeshi Murata, Bruce Nauman, Raphael Montañez Ortiz, Eve Sussman, Bill Viola and others. In 2009, the museum acquired the complete estate archive of Nam June Paik, becoming the institution of record for understanding this pioneering artists profound impact on the art world and the history of the moving image in 20th-century art, and in 2012 Hanhardt and Mansfield organized the major retrospective “Nam June Paik: Global Visionary.” 

About the Smithsonian American Art Museum

The Smithsonian American Art Museum celebrates the vision and creativity of Americans with artworks in all media spanning more than four centuries. Its National Historic Landmark building is located at Eighth and F streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Museum hours are 11:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily (closed Dec. 25). Admission is free. Follow the museum on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Website: americanart.si.edu

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