James Glisson

James Glisson

The Santa Barbara Museum of Art (SBMA) has announced the addition of James Glisson as the new curator of contemporary art.

He comes to Santa Barbara most recently from The Huntington Library, Art Museum, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, where he served as interim Virginia Steele Scott chief curator of American art for nearly two years, after being promoted from associate curator. He is due to begin his formal duties at SBMA on Feb. 10.

Glisson’s interests and knowledge of art and culture are wide-ranging. At the Huntington, he curated or co-curated 12 exhibits, including A World of Strangers: Crowds in American Art, Frederick Hammersley: To Paint without Thinking, and Real American Places: Edward Weston and Leaves of Grass.

He organized two shows that opened this past fall: Nineteen Nineteen, the Huntington’s centennial exhibition, which was just effusively reviewed by the Wall Street Journal; and True Grit: American Prints, 1900 to 1950, which he co-curated for the Getty Museum.

At the Huntington, Glisson was instrumental in the founding of /five, a highly successful exhibition initiative that integrated contemporary art into the museum’s programming to attract new audiences. In March 2019, Glisson participated in the Getty Leadership Institute’s NextGen program, an executive education program for museum leaders.

“With the addition of James Glisson to our talented curatorial ranks, we look forward to a new vision for the future growth of our contemporary art program,” said Larry Feinberg, SBMA’s Robert and Mercedes Eichholz director. “James is a curator of great intellect, energy, and passion, who will take our contemporary program in interesting new directions.”

“For years, I’ve visited the Santa Barbara Museum of Art to see its sophisticated and substantial traveling exhibitions not to mention its strong permanent collection,” Glisson said. “The quality and ambition of these projects have long impressed me, and I look forward to contributing to that legacy.”

Prior to his time at the Huntington, Glisson wrote for artforum.com, and contributed to projects on Renaissance anatomical atlases, the French painter Henri Matisse, the American artist George Bellows, and German art of the 1960s. He has also written articles for the art publications Master Drawings, Panorama, and Afterimage.

Forthcoming is his book “Becoming America: Highlights of the Jonathan and Karin Fielding Collection of Folk Art,” which will be co-published this year by The Huntington and Yale University Press.

Glisson is also a speaker, having taught at Occidental College, and given talks at various scholarly conferences and museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago, Berkeley Art Museum, and Autonomous National University of Mexico, Morelia.
He previously held curatorial posts at the Art Institute of Chicago, Saint Louis Art Museum, and Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University. He earned his PhD in art history from Northwestern University and received his MA in art history from the State University of New York, Stony Brook.