Mitra Abbaspour appointed curator and head of modern and contemporary art

Mitra Abbaspour

After a seven-year tenure at the Princeton University Art Museum, Abbaspour joins the Harvard Art Museums this fall. Photo by Emile Askey

3 min read

The Harvard Art Museums have appointed Mitra Abbaspour as their new Houghton Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art and head of the museums’ Division of Modern and Contemporary Art, which oversees the collection of art from 1901 to the present day. A respected veteran in the arts field with over 20 years of experience, Abbaspour brings a dynamic vision and deep commitment to advancing global and inclusive narratives in the scholarship and presentations of art from the 20th and 21st centuries. She begins her role at Harvard on Sept. 11.

Abbaspour is currently the Haskell Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at the Princeton University Art Museum, where since 2016 she has headed the modern and contemporary collections. In that time, she curated or co-curated 11 exhibitions, including “Cycle of Creativity: Alison Saar and the Toni Morrison Papers” (2023); “Colony / Dor Guez” (2022); “Helen Frankenthaler Prints: Seven Types of Ambiguity” (2019); and “Frank Stella Unbound: Literature and Printmaking” (2018). She also helped guide important acquisitions and art commissions for the Princeton campus, including installations by R&R Studios (Roberto Behar and Rosario Marquardt), Jim Campbell, Carlos Cruz-Diez, María Berrío, Maya Lin, and Titus Kaphar.

Abbaspour previously served as associate curator in the Department of Photography at the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and as assistant curator for the California Museum of Photography at the University of California, Riverside. She received her M.Phil. at the Graduate Center at City University of New York, and her M.A. and B.A. from the University of California, Riverside, and Scripps College in Claremont, California, respectively. She has taught courses in her specialization — modern and contemporary art of the Middle East — as well as in Islamic art, modern and contemporary art, and the history of photography at the Borough of Manhattan Community College in New York; the Cooper Union, New York; Brooklyn College; and at Hunter College. She has authored numerous essays on contemporary artists, contributing to monographs of Reza Aramesh, Lalla Essaydi, Dor Guez, Hassan Hajjaj, Farhad Moshiri, and Shirin Neshat.

“Mitra’s stellar curatorial and teaching experience, her scholarly research interests, and her passion for connecting with audiences are deeply aligned with our mission,” said Martha Tedeschi, the Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director of the Harvard Art Museums. “My colleagues and I are thrilled to welcome her to Harvard and to work with her on amplifying our regional and global impact in the field of modern and contemporary art.”

“Modern and contemporary artists are engaged with the concerns of our lived experiences. For me, the greatest reward of an academic museum lies in the opportunity to converse with scholars across a vast expanse of disciplines — literature, political science, architecture, climate science, or cell biology, to name a few, as well as art — and to consider the world we live in and its future,” said Abbaspour. “I am delighted to be joining the remarkable team at the Harvard Art Museums to foster conversations that link the museums’ renowned collections and distinguished intellectual community.”