WCMA hires new American art curator

On June 21, the Williams College Museum of Art (WCMA) welcomed Kevin Murphy as the new curator of American art. His impressive credentials, passion and curatorial practices will be an asset to WCMA.

Murphy obtained a bachelor of arts from Pitzer, a masters of arts from UMass Amherst and a Ph.D in art history from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Murphy was previously the curator and program manager at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art in Benton, Ark., as well as an associate curator of American art at the Huntington Library in San Marino, Calif. Murphy was vital in the establishment of the American art section and served as the head of the Tyson Scholars of American Art Program, an esteemed program at Crystal Bridges Museum of Art.

Having written a dissertation titled “Economics of Style: The Business Strategies of American Artists and the Structure of the Market, 1850-1910,” Murphy is a specialist in 19th century art and U.S. economic history. His knowledge of the synthesis of art and economy was apparent in the exhibition, “Taxing Visions: Financial Episodes in Late Nineteenth-Century American Art,” which was featured in The Wall Street Journal and on National Public Radio.

“I’m looking forward to working with the museum staff, faculty and students to create dynamic programming for American art, with the museum’s outstanding collection providing a great springboard,” said Murphy, expressing his excitement at becoming a part of the WCMA team and the College community. His curatorial work at WCMA is centered around the Prendergast collection: the largest collection of work by the American post-Impressionists Charles and Maurice Prendergast in the world.

Murphy “brings a passion for American art as well as an openness to new forms of museum and curatorial practice,” Tina Olsen, director of WCMA, said. “He comes at a time when the museum is remaining itself and strengthening its relationship to the campus and community.” Murphy and the WCMA team hope to share their passion and excitement for the WCMA art collections as they collaborate on and expand upon exhibitions.