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Massumeh Farhad, currently Associate Curator of Islamic Art at the Smithsonian’s Freer and Sackler Galleries, has been appointed to a dual position there as Chief Curator and Curator of Islamic Art. Ann Gunter, the Freer and Sackler galleries’ Associate Curator of Ancient Near Eastern Art, has been named Curator of Ancient Near Eastern Art and Head of Scholarly Publications and Programs at the galleries. The Freer and Sackler galleries form the national museum of Asian art.
“I announce these appointments with considerable pleasure,” says Freer and Sackler director Julian Raby. “Massumeh is known to her colleagues as a dedicated, tireless and creative advocate, not only in her area of expertise, but in relation to a wide range of museum issues. Her dedication to this institution is manifest in myriad ways and I am delighted that she has agreed to apply her considerable talents to the role of Chief Curator.”
Massumeh Farhad was educated at Wellesley College, and Harvard University from which she received a Ph.D. in Islamic Art History. She was artistic director of the Zamana Gallery, London and a Research Assistant/Associate at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts, at the National Gallery of Art in Washington D.C. before taking a post as Research and Coordinating Curator at the Smithsonian’s Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the National Museum of African Art. She has been Associate Curator of Islamic Art at the Freer and Sackler galleries since 1995 and served as Coordinating Curator for the departments of Islamic Art, and South Asian Art and Ancient Near Eastern Art from 2000 to 2002.
Farhad has curated and co-curated innumerable exhibitions at the Freer and Sackler galleries and at the Arthur M. Sackler Museum at Harvard and has contributed extensively to the scholarly literature on the subject of Islamic art. A frequent lecturer, Farhad is fluent in German, French, and Persian, and is on the editorial boards of Ars Orientalis and Muqarnas. She has served as President of the Historians of Islamic Art and is an Institutional Trustee for the American Institute for Iranian Studies.
Ann Gunter graduated from Bryn Mawr College and received masters and doctoral degrees from Columbia University. Gunter came to the Freer and Sackler galleries in 1987 as Assistant Curator of Ancient Near Eastern Art, and was appointed Associate Curator in 1992. She has been a visiting assistant professor at Emory University in Atlanta and at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis. She was Director of the American Research Institute in Turkey at Ankara and is an adjunct associate professor in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Johns Hopkins University.
Gunter has conducted fieldwork and archaeological research at several sites in Turkey and has written or edited a number of books and monographs, the latest being “A Collector’s Journey: Charles Lang Freer and Egypt.” Her forthcoming “Greek Art and the Orient: Defining Cultural Boundaries in the Eastern Mediterranean” will be published by Cambridge University Press. Gunter has contributed to numerous scholarly journals and has curated and co-curated a number of Sackler Gallery exhibitions. She has chaired scholarly conferences and panels on ancient Near Eastern art and has served on a number of museum committees.
“In accepting this position, Ann will be formally assuming a role for which she graciously volunteered in the past,” says Raby. “Her remarkable knowledge of scholarly issues in a diverse range of areas will serve us well in the future. Ann has assumed conceived, revived, implemented and monitored a wide range of projects relating to the foundational scholarship practiced at our institution. She has supervised the realignment of our relationship with the University of Michigan, including fellowship programs and our joint participation in the publication of Ars Orientalis of which she has become joint editor. She has also implemented a restructuring of the Freer Occasional Papers and will supervise our relationship with Artibus Asiae, which is published in conjunction with the Rietberg Museum of Zurich.”
The Freer Gallery of Art opened in 1923 as the first fine arts museum of the Smithsonian Institution. Founded by collector Charles Freer, its collection of Asian art is considered among the finest in the world. It also houses the world’s most comprehensive collection of works by American artist James McNeill Whistler. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, founded in 1987 with a collection of masterpieces of Asian art given by Arthur M. Sackler, explores Asia’s distinctive traditions with a varied program of exhibitions, public programs and performing arts. Together the two museums form the national museum of Asian art. The Freer and Sackler are in adjacent buildings, and are administered by a single staff.
For more information, the public may visit the galleries’ Web site at asia.si.edu.