Soyoung Lee Named Chief Curator at the Harvard Art Museums

  • CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts
  • /
  • June 14, 2018

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Soyoung Lee
Photo: © Audrey Kotkin

The Harvard Art Museums has announced the appointment of Soyoung Lee as the institution’s new Chief Curator, effective September 24, 2018.

Lee comes to the Harvard Art Museums from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, where over the course of a distinguished 15-year career she has served as curator, associate curator, and assistant curator in the Department of Asian Art. Lee joined the Met in 2003 as its first curator for Korean art and has organized a number of critically acclaimed international loan exhibitions, including Poetry in Clay: Korean Buncheong Ceramics from the Leeum, Samsung Museum of Art (April 7–August 14, 2011); Silla: Korea’s Golden Kingdom (November 4, 2013–February 23, 2014); and most recently, Diamond Mountains: Travel and Nostalgia in Korean Art (February 7–May 20, 2018), each with an accompanying publication.

She is currently collaborating with colleagues at the Metropolitan Museum on two major cross-departmental projects: Jewelry: The Body Transformed, a special exhibition opening in Fall 2018, and an exhibition celebrating the 150th anniversary of the Met in Spring 2020.

In 2016–17, Lee served as chair of the Metropolitan Museum’s Forum of Curators, Conservators, and Scientists—the Met’s academic body, comprised of more than 200 members—and as the forum’s delegate to the Board of Trustees in 2017–18. She serves on the museum’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee to the President. She is also a trustee-at-large for the Association of Art Museum Curators and one of twelve fellows in the Center for Curatorial Leadership’s 2018 cohort.

She has received numerous other fellowships and grants, including the Met’s Theodore Rousseau Memorial Travel Grant (Summer 2006 and March 2010) and the Jane and Morgan Whitney Art History Fellowship (2001–02), as well as the Columbia University President’s Fellowship (2000–01).

Lee received her B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. in art history from Columbia University. Her dissertation examined the influence of 15th- and 16th-century Korean ceramics on key ceramic industries in Kyushu, Japan, and the subsequent Japanese reinterpretations. Her research interests encompass cross-cultural exchanges in East Asian art and culture. Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lee has lived in Stockholm, London, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Tokyo in addition to her current home in New York. 

At the Harvard Art Museums, Lee will be a key member of the senior leadership team; she will oversee the museums’ three curatorial divisions (Division of Asian and Mediterranean Art, Division of European and American Art, and Division of Modern and Contemporary Art), an active exhibition program, and the stewardship and development of Harvard’s world-class collections, among the largest in the United States. Working closely with the Department of Academic and Public Programs and the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Lee will build on the Harvard Art Museums’s legacy as a premier training and teaching institution, facilitating curatorial collaborations with Harvard faculty and students across disciplines and fostering the internship and postgraduate fellowship programs. Lee will also play a critical role in the museums’ efforts to partner with campus organizations in highlighting contemporary art and current issues through exhibitions, programs, and other projects with living artists.

“We are welcoming Soyoung to our staff at an exciting time, as we further establish our dual role as a premier teaching institution and one of the major public art museums in the dynamic Boston cultural landscape,” said Martha Tedeschi, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums. “We are thrilled to have such a well-respected and gifted art historian join our curatorial team. Her experience as both a leader and scholar will be great assets as we continue to develop distinctive exhibition, publishing, and interpretive programs that leverage the wide-ranging nature of the museums’ remarkable collections.”

“It is a tremendous honor to join the Harvard Art Museums, an institution with such incredible collections, history, and creativity. I am delighted to work alongside Martha and the museums’ stellar staff and am excited by the opportunities to collaborate across this extraordinary university,” said Lee. “While at the Met, I was fortunate to have been nurtured by a wealth of talented and generous colleagues. I look forward to bringing that experience to Harvard, to cultivate in the next generation the kind of passion for art and knowledge that can transform one’s life.”

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