THE NASHER MUSEUM OF ART at Duke University announced the appointment of Lauren Haynes this morning. She is joining the museum as Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. The Nasher Museum in Durham, N.C., has been a leader in the field, showcasing a spectrum of emerging and overlooked artists, particularly Black artists and artists of color.

Haynes has been serving as curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville, Ark., since 2016. Previously, she spent a decade at the Studio Museum in Harlem. Haynes officially starts at the Nasher Museum on June 7.


Lauren Haynes is joining the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, N.C., as Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Senior Curator of Contemporary Art. | Photo by Rana Young


“I am thrilled that Lauren is joining our team. I’ve been following her career since we first met at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 2008, at the opening of “Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool,” said Trevor Schoonmaker, Mary D.B.T. and James H. Semans Director of the Nasher Museum.

“There, she was mentored by one of the best—Thelma Golden—and I’m so impressed with how she has helped build a more inclusive collection at Crystal Bridges, acquiring works by artists like Jordan Casteel, Emma Amos, Sam Gilliam and Amy Sherald.

Schoonmaker added: “Over the past 15 years, she’s developed a deep understanding of the global art world and I’m very excited for her to bring her curatorial vision and vast experience to the Nasher, Duke and our communities.”

“Over the past 15 years, [Lauren’s] developed a deep understanding of the global art world and I’m very excited for her to bring her curatorial vision and vast experience to the Nasher, Duke and our communities.”
— Trevor Schoonmaker

At Crystal Bridges, Haynes coordinated the first U.S. presentation of the international traveling exhibition “Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” (2018) and co-curated “The Beyond: Georgia O’Keeffe and Contemporary Art” (2018). More recently, she led the curatorial team that organized “State of the Art 2020,” an expansive exhibition showcasing an eclectic group of 61 artists from across the nation at various stages in their careers, which was on view at Crystal Bridges and The Momentary, the museum’s recently opened satellite contemporary art space in downtown Bentonville.

Over the past year at Crystal Bridges, Haynes received a promotion and added responsibilities, becoming director of artist initiatives and curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and The Momentary. Her previous title was curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and curator of visual arts for The Momentary.

After starting out as a curatorial assistant, Haynes eventually rose to associate curator at the Studio Museum. During her tenure, she co-curated a major “Alma Thomas” exhibition and organized “Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art.” She also curated “Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange,” “Carrie Mae Weems: The Museum Series”, “The Bearden Project,” and presented “Trenton Doyle Hancock: Skin and Bones, 20 Years of Drawing.” In addition, Haynes oversaw the Studio Museum’s collection and acquisitions and guided its renowned artist-in-residence program.

Joining the Nasher Museum marks Haynes’s second experience at a university museum. During her freshman year at Oberlin, she worked at Allen Memorial Art Museum. In the Nasher statement announcing her appointment, Haynes spoke about her dedication to museums:

    On the Nasher Museum
    I have known and been an admirer of the work that the Nasher does for the majority of my career. I am very excited by the opportunity to be part of this team that is doing really exciting work, and also wants to continue to do more, is ambitious, and is helping to chart what the future looks like.

    On University Museums
    I’m very drawn to, and supportive of, college and university art museums, where I think some of the most innovative and interesting work is being done in the field. To be able to join a team of (a museum) that also has a commitment to collecting and exhibiting artists of color is important to me.

    On Improving Museums
    I love museums. They drive me crazy, they frustrate me every day. But I don’t know what else I would do if I didn’t work in a museum, work with artists, make exhibitions, think about how we can allow people to have access to art and access to exhibitions and artists in ways that they might not have. But I don’t think it’s a perfect system. So why not ask the questions or try things to try to make it better? Because otherwise we’re going to make ourselves obsolete.


News of Haynes’s appointment comes nearly one year after Schoonmaker was named director of the Nasher Museum. He has risen through the ranks, starting at the museum as founding curator of contemporary art one year after it opened in 2006. Schoonmaker was named chief curator of the museum in 2013 and then served as the museum’s first deputy director, expanding his curatorial leadership with administrative and fundraising responsibilities.

During his tenure, the Nasher Museum has established a reputation for promoting artists of color, identifying emerging talent, and bringing attention to overlooked historic figures, priorities reflected in the institution’s acquisitions and exhibition program.

In the space of a decade, the museum has organized “Barkley Hendricks: Birth of the Cool” (2009), the artist’s first career retrospective, curated by Schoonmaker; “Wangechi Mutu: A Fantastic Journey” (2013), Mutu’s first U.S. survey, curated by Schoonmaker; “Archibald Motley: Jazz Age Modernist” (2014), the first full-scale survey of the artist, curated by Richard J. Powell; and “Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush,” (2017), the first solo museum exhibition of the artist, curated by Marshall N. Price.

As director, Schoonmaker has assembled a talented curatorial team. Haynes makes five. Coinciding with her arrival, Price is being promoted from curator of modern and contemporary art to chief curator. Molly Boarati has risen to associate curator. Melissa Gwynn is exhibitions and publications manager and Adria Gunter serves as the museum’s curatorial assistant.

The Nasher Museum remains temporarily closed due to COVID-19, in adherence with Duke University’s guidelines and protocol. In a statement to Culture Type, the museum’s spokesperson said, “We hope to open to the public in some capacity this fall.” Meanwhile, the curatorial team in organizing two new exhibitions and the museum’s public programming continues. On March 17, artist Carrie Mae Weems will be in virutal conversation with writer Mark Anthony Neal. CT


In addition to co-authoring the exhibition catalog Alma Thomas, curator Lauren Haynes has published and contributed to several of exhibition catalogs. The volumes include “Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art,” and “Stanley Whitney: Dance the Orange,” as well as “The Bearden Project” and “Fore.” More recently, she co-authored “Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today” and contributed to “Trenton Doyle Hancock: Mind of the Mound: Critical Mass,” “Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists: The Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art,” and “Jordan Casteel: Within Reach.”


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