(New York, July 7, 2022)—The Metropolitan Museum of Art announced today that Trustee Merryl H. Tisch and her husband, James S. Tisch, have provided a generous gift to endow a recently established curatorial position. In recognition of the gift, the position has been named the Merryl H. and James S. Tisch Curator at Large. Denise Murrell, who joined the Museum as Associate Curator of 19th- and 20th-Century Art in 2020, is the first incumbent.
“We’re deeply grateful to Merryl H. and James S. Tisch for their generosity and support of the Curator at Large role, which will enable The Met to significantly advance an interdepartmental curatorial practice that works collaboratively across curatorial departments to bring broader, more inclusive perspectives to our exhibitions, collections, and programming” said Max Hollein, Marina Kellen French Director of the Museum. “Denise brings great depths of expertise and passion to her work.”
In this new role, Murrell will continue her research on projects that align with the strategic direction of The Met to confront questions and issues that move across geographic and chronological boundaries and are of deep interest to the Museum’s audiences. She is currently planning a major exhibition on the Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism that will situate this African American-led movement within the multinational context of early 20th-century modernism. She is also developing a series of collection-based installations in the European Paintings galleries and initiating relevant acquisitions from the 19th century to the present. Her research in the Museum moves across the departments of European Paintings and Modern and Contemporary Art while also engaging with the collections in the American Wing, European Sculpture and Decorative Arts, and the Department of Photographs.
The Tisches commented, “It is with tremendous enthusiasm that we endow this position as part of our ongoing support of The Met’s mission. We hope this unique role will contribute to the Museum’s great momentum in offering important scholarship and timely, impactful exhibition programming for many years to come."
“I am honored to take on this new title as I continue my curatorial work at The Met,” said Murrell. “The intersectional nature of the role perfectly aligns with my efforts to further the Museum’s more expansive presentation of art history and to surface meaningful new connections across the collection.”
Denise Murrell, PhD, joined The Met in January 2020. She was previously the curator of the exhibition Posing Modernity: The Black Model from Manet and Matisse to Today (October 2018–February 2019) at Columbia University's Wallach Art Gallery while serving as the Wallach’s Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Research Scholar (2014–19). She was a co-curator of the exhibition's expansion at the Musée d'Orsay, Paris, as Le Modèle Noir de Géricault à Matisse (March–July 2019) and a guest lecturer for its final tour as Le Modèle Noir de Géricault à Picasso at the Memorial ACTe, Pointe-à-Pitre, Guadeloupe (September–December 2019).
Murrell is the author of the Posing Modernity exhibition catalogue (Yale University Press and The Wallach Art Gallery, 2018), which was based on her 2014 art history PhD dissertation at Columbia University in New York. The catalogue received College Art Association and Dedalus Foundation book awards. She was an essayist for the Orsay Le Modèle Noir catalogue. Murrell has taught art history at Columbia University in New York and in Paris and has given public lectures and published as a guest essayist for numerous museums and universities.
Selected recent publications include “Suzanne Valadon’s Venus Noir: A Conversation” in Suzanne Valadon: Model, Painter, Rebel, The Barnes Foundation, 2021; “Bazille, Degas and Modern Black Paris” in The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Impressionism, edited by André Dombrowski, winter 2021/22; and “The Mirror of History: Black Artists as Antiracist Activists” in A Time of Crisis, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin, November 2020.
Murrell is the inaugural visiting research fellow (2022–24) at the Marder Center for Matisse Studies at the Baltimore Museum of Art. She held a Mellon pre-doctoral curatorial research fellowship at Princeton University Art Museum (2012–13), where she developed collection installations in relation to the exhibition The African Presence in Renaissance Europe and initiated the online resource “The Art of Africa and Its Diasporas.” She was a contract gallery lecturer and Timeline of Art History essayist at The Met from 2004 to 2011.
Her professional and civic affiliations include the Obama Presidential Portrait Commission Committee at the Harvard Club of Greater New York; the National Advisory Board of the Ackland Art Museum at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; the External Advisory Committee for the Spelman College/Atlanta University art history degree program; Le Comité scientifique de l’Institut national d’histoire de l’art (INHA), Paris, Carte Blanche 2021: L’Art antillais; and the Global Africa Advisory Committee, Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.
Murrell previously received an MBA from Harvard Business School and a BS from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and had an extended career in finance and consulting.