After 38 years at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, Julie Jones, head of the department of the arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas, will retire at the end of March, becoming curator emeritus. She has been head of the department for 21 years.
“Julie Jones was one of the first curators of Precolumbian art to work at an art museum in the United States,” said museum director Thomas P. Campbell in a statement. “Over the past nearly four decades at the Met, her contributions to the field have been significant.”
Jones began her career at the museum as a curator in 1975. She was promoted to curator and acting department head in 1990, and became curator in charge of the department in 1992. She had previously worked at New York’s Museum of Primitive Art, founded by Nelson Rockefeller, who later donated the museum’s holdings to the Met. Her first exhibition at the Met was “Desert Valley: Early Works from Ica, Peru” (1983).
Zairean-born LaGamma, daughter of a U.S. Foreign Service officer, has been a curator in the department since 1996. Among the recent exhibitions she has organized are “Heroic Africans: Legendary Leaders, Iconic Sculpture” (2011-12) and “Reconfiguring an African Icon: Odes to the Mask by Modern Contemporary Artist from Three Continents” (2011).
Frederick John Lamp, curator of African Art at the Yale University Art Gallery, told A.i.A. via e-mail, “Alisa LaGamma has become one of the most respected curators of African art, organizing several groundbreaking exhibitions, and establishing excellent relations with prominent museums internationally during her tenure, attracting loans of some of the world’s masterpieces.”
“I had a highly unconventional upbringing,” LaGamma says in an audio statement on the museum’s website. “Among our family photos are images of us visiting a Senufo village and watching a painter produce one of the tapestries–a celebrated form of expression.”
“When I was a small child we had lots of African art,” she also says. “My father used to joke with us that we had our dolls and these were his.”