Kelly Named Chief Curator At National Gallery

Soon-to-be deputy director and chief curator Franklin Kelly.
Soon-to-be deputy director and chief curator Franklin Kelly.
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By Blake Gopnik
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, May 2, 2008

Franklin Kelly, senior curator of American and British paintings at the National Gallery of Art, is being promoted to deputy director and chief curator, the gallery announced yesterday. On Oct. 1 he will replace Alan Shestack, who has held those posts for 15 years and is retiring at age 70.

Kelly will be responsible for those functions most directly involved with the works of art themselves and with their presentation to the public. The gallery's many curators, conservators and educators will report to him, as will its librarians, Web masters and others.

Kelly, who is 54 and holds a PhD in art history from the University of Delaware, has been a curator at the National Gallery for 21 years. He has been closely involved with important exhibitions that include "J.M.W. Turner," which closed earlier this year, as well as the Winslow Homer show that opened at the gallery in 1995 and the Frederic Edwin Church survey that launched in 1989. He has also led efforts to add a number of major American and British paintings to the National Gallery collection. In his work as a curator, Kelly has tended to favor traditional approaches to acknowledged masters.

Kelly's promotion will, however, lead to a considerable shift in his activities, away from hands-on involvement with works and exhibitions and toward planning, administration and oversight. "I may not be curating the exhibitions," he said in an interview, "but I will be paying attention to them." He agreed to accept the position, he said, because the institution had always given him excellent support in his own work as a curator. "It's crucial to see other people have those kinds of opportunities," Kelly said, adding that he plans to be "the most vocal, passionate advocate" for the gallery staff most closely involved with its wonderful objects and shows. "For me, it's about the art."

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