THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART in New York has hired Akili Tommasino as associate curator in the Modern and Contemporary Art department. A scholar of the 20th-century avant-grade, Tommasino is currently a curator at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. He starts at The Met in April.

The appointment was first reported by ARTnews on Jan. 6. The Met did not formally announce the hiring, but upon inquiry the museum shared the details with Culture Type.

Since 2018, Tommasino has been serving as associate curator of modern and contemporary art at MFA Boston, inaugurating a newly created position. The appointment marked his second stint at the institution. A decade earlier, in 2008, he was an intern at MFA.

During his current tenure, Tommasino has focused on the department’s holdings, drafting its collection strategy, and leading recent acquisitions efforts.

At MFA, Tommasino curated “MURAL: Jackson Pollock | Katharine Grosse,” “The Banner Project: Robert Pruitt,” and “Lucian Freud: The Self-Portraits.” He is also working on a forthcoming exhibition project, “Reclaiming Ancient Egypt: African American Artists and Ancient Egypt, 1876-Now.”

Previously, Tommasino was a curatorial assistant in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the Museum of Modern Art, from 2014-18. He worked on many exhibitions, programs, and projects at MoMA. Among them, he curated “Projects: 107: Lone Wolf Recital Corps” in 2017. The exhibition was the first to reunite the Corps, a multidisciplinary performance collective, since the 2014 death of its founder, artist and musician Terry Adkins. Prior to joining MoMA, Tommasino was a Fulbright Fellow at the Centre Pompidou in Paris, from 2013-14.

In addition to his scholarship and curatorial activities, Tommasino has prioritized arts education and community service. In 2017, he founded Prep for Prep/Sotheby’s Summer Art Academy, a program designed to expose New York City high school students of color to museums and the larger art world and promote diversity in the field. He has also participated as a mentor in MFA’s STEAM Team (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Mathematics), a workforce development program.

TOMMASINO GREW UP in Brooklyn, N.Y. He is fluent in French and Italian and proficient in German and Spanish. As an undergraduate, he studied the history art and architecture (and romance languages and literature) at Harvard University. He has continued his studies at Harvard. After also earning a master’s degree in the history of art and architecture, he is currently a Ph.D.-candidate in the discipline.

The Met is one of the world’s largest and highly regarded art museums, with 17 curatorial departments and more than two million objects in its collection, spanning 5,000 years.

Recently, African Americans have joined The Met in key positions. Since January 2020, Denise Murrell has been serving as associate curator for 19th- and 20th-century art. In September, Heidi Holder was named chair of education. Lavita McMath Turner was appointed chief diversity officer in November.

The Met’s curatorial division also includes Andrea Achi, who after serving as an intern for three and a half years, was hired in 2018 as assistant curator in the medieval art department. Hakimah Abdul-Fattah joined the Arts of Africa, Oceania, and the Americas department as a research associate in 2019.

Earlier this month, Tommasino shared his Met appointment on Instagram. He said when he was 18, he outlined an ambitious plan for his career and incredibly it’s turned out just as he envisioned. The post included photos of him then and now.

Tommasino said: “…I hatched an improbable plan (complete with an Excel® spreadsheet projecting hypothetical years of graduate school, international travel, and a wishlist of professional opportunities) to become a curator at a local museum with a global reputation, of which I quite literally often dreamt. 15 years later, I am thrilled to share the wonderful news that I will be joining The Metropolitan Museum of Art (@metmuseum) as Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art. I am deeply grateful to God my provider, my loving family and close friends, as well as my supportive mentors and brilliant former colleagues, especially those with whom I have collaborated for the past two years.” CT


IMAGE: Akili Tommasino, 2021 | Photo © Gregston Hurdle, Courtesy Metropolitan Museum of Art


FIND MORE about Akili Tommasino on Instagram and Pana Projects, the arts and education initiative designed to connect teens throughout the Caribbean across languages, which he launched last summer while sheltering in Puerto Rico


READ MORE In June, The Met joined the crowded ranks of museums recently accused of fomenting a culture of white supremacy and institutional racism by staff members. In July, in response, the museum adopted a diversity and inclusion plan that included hiring a chief diversity officer in four months. (Lavita McMath Turner was appointed to the position in November.)


Akili Tommasino contributed a text on artist and musician Terry Adkins (1953-2014) to the volume “Among Others: Blackness at MoMA.” The catalogs “Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle,” “Jack Whitten: Odyssey: Sculpture 1963–2017,” and “Kerry James Marshall: Mastry” document recent traveling exhibitions on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.


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