Met Museum Hires First Curator of Native American Art

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art recently announced that the museum had hired a full-time curator of Native American art– the first in the museum’s 150 years of operation.

Patricia Marroquin Norby will join the museum starting September 14 as the inaugural Associate Curator of Native American Art. Dr. Norby, who is Purépecha, previously served as assistant director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian-New York. She holds a PhD in American Studies from the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, with a specialization in Native American art history and visual culture. Dr. Norby’s forthcoming book Water, Bones, and Bombs focuses on twentieth-century Southwest art and environmental conflict between Indigenous, Hispanic, and white communities.

In a statement, Dr. Norby described her excitement in returning to her fine-arts roots and being part of a change in the Met’s culture. “Historical and contemporary Native American art embodies and confronts the environmental, religious, and economic disruptions that Indigenous communities have so powerfully negotiated—and still negotiate—through a balance of beauty, tradition, and innovation. I am deeply honored to join with American Indian and Indigenous artists and communities in advancing our diverse experiences and voices in The Met’s exhibitions, collections, and programs. This is a time of significant evolution for the Museum. Max Hollein, Daniel Weiss, and Sylvia Yount are strongly committed to supporting meaningful systematic change. I look forward to being part of this critical shift in the presentation of Native American art,” Dr. Norby said.

Dr. Norby will work within the American Wing of the museum, where the museum now displays Native American art. Prior to 2018, Native American art was shown in the galleries for Arts of Africa, Oceania and the Americas. In 2017, collectors Charles and Valerie Diker announced a donation of 91 pieces of Native American art to the Met. An exhibit of works from this donation was denounced by the Association on American Indian Affairs, as many of the cultural items were originally acquired through theft. More recently, the museum has commissioned contemporary Native American art. In 2019, the Met installed two monumental murals by Cree artist Kent Monkman.

Dr. Norby will work to place Native art at the center of collections and exhibit development. She will also help the museum build long-term relationships with Indigenous communities.