Black History 365: Naomi Beckwith

In her role as Deputy Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator, Beckwith oversees collections, exhibitions, publications, and curatorial programs and archives at the Guggenheim Museum, and provides strategic direction within the international network of affiliate museums for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation. Beckwith works closely with the Director, Trustees, and staff on planning and implementing strategy across the museum and on its global initiatives and plays an instrumental role in shaping the museum’s vision.

Beckwith comes to the Guggenheim from the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, where she has held curatorial posts since 2011 and served as Manilow Senior Curator since 2018. During her tenure at the MCA, her exhibitions and publications have centered on the impact of identity and the resonance of Black culture on multidisciplinary practices within global contemporary art. She organized and co-organized acclaimed exhibitions such as Howardena Pindell: What Remains to Be Seen, the first survey of the artist, and whose catalogue received the George Wittenborn Memorial Book Award. Beckwith also developed The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now and Homebodies, as well as solo shows on The Propeller Group, Keren Cytter, Leslie Hewitt, William J. O’Brien, and Jimmy Robert; and a project with Yinka Shonibare CBE. Before joining the MCA, Beckwith was Associate Curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where she organized exhibitions such as Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations (2011) and 30 Seconds off an Inch (2009–10).

Beckwith is a member of the curatorial team realizing Grief and Grievance: Art and Mourning in America, an exhibition conceived by the late curator Okwui Enwezor for the New Museum. Other recent shows include The Long Dream, a presentation of 70 Chicago artists organized in response to the pandemic and social unrest; Prisoner of Love, centered around Arthur Jafa’s video phenomenon Love Is the Message, the Message Is Death; and Laurie Simmons: Big Camera/Little Camera, a retrospective that traveled from the Museum of Modern Art Fort Worth.

Beckwith serves on the boards of The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Laundromat Project, and chaired the inaugural Curatorial Leadership Summit at the Armory Show in 2018.

She has received fellowships at the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program, the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, the Center for Curatorial Leadership, and other institutions. Beckwith holds an MA, with Distinction, from the Courtauld Institute of Art in London and a BA in history from Northwestern University in Chicago.