Kevin Murphy Named Curator of American Art at WCMA

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WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., June 21, 2013—Williams announced today the appointment of Kevin Murphy as curator of American art at the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA). Murphy is currently a curator and program manager at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Arkansas. Previously, he served as associate curator of American art at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California.

“I am thrilled that Kevin Murphy is coming to WCMA,” says Christina Olsen, director of the museum. “He brings a passion for American art as well as an openness to new forms of museum and curatorial practice. He comes at a time when the museum is reimagining itself and strengthening its relationship to the campus and community.”

Kevin.Murphy_smMurphy will be a key member of the team led by Olsen, who was appointed the museum’s director in April 2012. He will work in collaboration with the curatorial staff to excite public and broad scholarly interest in American art and to create exhibitions and programs that provide new directions for WCMA’s existing collection. He will also direct the museum’s Prendergast Archive and Study Center, which contains the world’s largest body of work by the artists Charles and Maurice Prendergast.

“It’s a thrilling moment to join WCMA,” said Murphy. “I’m looking forward to working with the museum staff, faculty, and students to create dynamic programming for American art, with the museum’s outstanding collection providing a great springboard.”

Murphy has curated exhibitions on American art from the 19th century to the present, specializing in 19th and early 20th-century painting, and early 20th-century prints. His expertise also includes 19th-century U.S. economic history, which informed the exhibition, “Taxing Visions: Financial Episodes in Late Nineteenth-Century American Art,” featured in The Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio.

WCMA is a teaching museum founded in 1929 with more than 14,000 works of art in its collection. Its mission is to encourage multidisciplinary teaching through encounters with art objects that traverse time periods and cultures.


Murphy has served as a curator and program manager at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art since 2011. Crystal Bridges, founded by Alice Walton in 2005, is a free-admission museum and research center for American art. Murphy was a key figure in the museum’s opening and helped organize the inaugural installation of art collections within the museum’s 50,000 square feet of gallery space. He oversees the Tyson Scholar of American Art program, a residential fellowship program. He also has helped Crystal Bridges expand its American art collection by successfully proposing major acquisitions by such notable artists as Thomas Hart Benton, John Singer Sargent, John Sloan, and William Wetmore Story. And he built the museum’s print collection, adding over 500 artists, including Edward Hopper, Charles Sheeler, John Sloan, and James A.M. Whistler.

Murphy is the author of a number of exhibition catalogues, essays, and scholarly articles, as well as a frequent lecturer on American art and presenter at academic conferences. At the Huntington Library, Murphy organized numerous exhibitions featuring the permanent collection and loans. He was part of the curatorial team responsible for reinstalling the American art collection into newly renovated and expanded galleries in 2009. Prior to his time at Huntington Library, Murphy taught art history at the University of California, Santa Barbara, the University of California, Los Angeles, and San Diego Mesa College.

Murphy has been awarded several fellowships and grants, including the Terra Foundation for American Art award and the Henry Luce Foundation Dissertation Research Grant. He is lead curator of the exhibition, “American Encounters: Anglo-American Portraiture in an Age of Revolution,” working in collaboration with the Musée du Lourve, Paris, the Terra Foundation for American Art, and the High Museum in Atlanta, Georgia. Murphy will author the main catalogue essay for this exhibition’s catalogue, as well as an essay on Gilbert Stuart’s George Washington, as part of the 2014 “American Encounters” series.

Murphy holds a B.A. from Pitzer College of The Claremont Colleges in California and an M.A. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. He earned a Ph.D. in art history from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and wrote a dissertation titled “Economics of Style: The Business Strategies of American Artists and the Structure of the Market, 1850-1910.”

He will begin work at WCMA on September 3, 2013.


Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college’s 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students’ educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions on U.S. applicants are made regardless of a student’s financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.

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Published June 21, 2013