Karen Lemmey is the Lucy S. Rhame Curator of Sculpture at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; 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.
Lemmey co-curated Isamu Noguchi, Archaic/Modern (2016) with Dakin Hart, senior curator at The Noguchi Museum; and she was the coordinating curator for Martin Puryear: Multiple Dimensions (2016). Other recent projects include Measured Perfection: Hiram Powers’ Greek Slave (2015) and an installation of 24 examples of direct carving from across the 20th century, drawn mostly from the museum’s permanent collection.
Before joining the museum’s staff, Lemmey was a research associate at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and served as monuments coordinator for the City of New York’s Parks & Recreation. She was an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Fellow at the New-York Historical Society and an Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., where she organized the exhibition Alexandre-Louis-Marie Charpentier (2006).
Lemmey earned a bachelor’s degree in art history from Columbia College, Columbia University (1995) and she holds a doctorate in art history and certificate in American studies from the Graduate Center of the City University of New York (2005).
Lemmey became interested in sculpture as a high school student while serving as an apprentice at the studio of Greg Wyatt, sculptor-in-residence at the Cathedral Church of Saint John the Divine in New York City. While there, she studied traditional methods of sculpting in clay, making molds and casting bronze.
About the Smithsonian American Art Museum
The Smithsonian American Art Museum is the home to one of the most significant and most inclusive collections of American art in the world. Its artworks reveal America’s rich artistic and cultural history from the colonial period to today. The museum’s main building is located at Eighth and G streets N.W., above the Gallery Place/Chinatown Metrorail station. Its Renwick Gallery, a branch museum dedicated to contemporary craft and decorative arts, is located on Pennsylvania Avenue at 17th Street N.W. Both locations are closed temporarily as a public health precaution to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. Follow the museum on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube. Smithsonian information: (202) 633-1000. Museum information (recorded): (202) 633-7970. Website: americanart.si.edu.