The Harvard Art Museums has appointed Soyoung Lee, a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, as its new chief curator, effective Sept. 24.
Over the course of a distinguished 15-year career, Lee has served Met as curator, associate curator, and assistant curator in the department of Asian art. She joined the museum in 2003 as its first curator for Korean art, and has organized a number of critically acclaimed international loan exhibitions, each with an accompanying publication.
“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.”
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 a year later. She was a member of the museum’s Diversity and Inclusion Task Force and the Ad Hoc Advisory Committee to the President. She was also a trustee-at-large for the Association of Art Museum Curators and one of 12 fellows in the Center for Curatorial Leadership’s 2018 cohort.
Lee has received numerous fellowships and grants, including the Met’s Theodore Rousseau Memorial Travel Grant in summer 2006 and March 2010, the Jane and Morgan Whitney Art History Fellowship in 2001–02, and the Columbia University President’s Fellowship in 2000–01.
“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.”
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 U.S.
Working closely with the Department of Academic and Public Programs and the Straus Center for Conservation and Technical Studies, Lee will build on the museums’ legacy as a premier training and teaching institution, facilitating curatorial collaborations with faculty and students across disciplines and fostering the internship and postgraduate fellowship programs. She 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.
Born in Jakarta, Indonesia, Lee has lived in Stockholm, London, Los Angeles, Seoul, and Tokyo in addition to her current home in New York. She earned 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 subsequent Japanese reinterpretations. Her research interests encompass cross-cultural exchanges in East Asian art and culture.