Accomplished Leader and Director of the Smithsonian's
Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden
“The art world is like many other areas right now, with a heightened awareness of identity and attention to questions of power: Who has been overlooked? Which voices have we not heard? One of the most important contributions museums can make today, and one of the goals I have for my own work, is to bring greater attention to the voices of artists who are not yet recognized for the groundbreaking work that they do.”
MELISSA CHIU is director of the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, the national museum of modern and contemporary art. Since her appointment in 2014, she has advocated for contemporary art through the Museum’s exhibitions, acquisitions, and public programs. This year, the Hirshhorn became the second most visited modern and contemporary art museum in the world and is now among the top 10 most visited museum is the United States.
While maintaining the Hirshhorn’s focus on twentieth- and twenty-first century art, the Museum has presented landmark exhibitions of work by some of the most important contemporary artists, notably Shirin Neshat, Robert Irwin, and Yayoi Kusama. Under Ms. Chiu’s leadership, the Hirshhorn has also commissioned site-specific artworks that connect with the Hirshhorn’s unique architecture, such as an installation by Mark Bradford—a 300 foot painting, his largest yet. Ms. Chiu has expanded the Museum’s substantial holdings of European and American postwar art to include examples of global modernism. Works by artists Park Seo-bo, Jimmie Durham, Monir Farmanfarmaian, Natsuyuki Nakanishi, and Senga Nengudi have been added to the collection.
A native of Australia, Chiu earned her bachelor’s degree in art history and criticism from the University of Western Sydney in 1992 and her master’s degree in arts administration in 1994 from the College of Fine Arts at the University of New South Wales. She completed her Ph.D. with a dissertation on contemporary Chinese art at the University of Western Sydney in 2005. Chiu has authored and edited several books and catalogues on contemporary art, including, Contemporary Asian Art (Thames and Hudson, 2011), Contemporary Art in Asia: A Critical Reader (MIT Press, 2010), and has lectured at Harvard, Yale, Columbia, the Museum of Modern Art, and other universities and museums.
Learn more about Melissa Chiu in her interview with TIME!