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Release Date: May 2, 2008

Franklin Kelly to Become Deputy Director and Chief Curator of National Gallery of Art in October 2008; Alan Shestack to Retire After 43–Year Career in Museums

Washington, DC—Earl A. Powell III, director of the National Gallery of Art, Washington, today announced the appointment of Franklin Kelly as the deputy director and chief curator, effective October 1, 2008. Currently senior curator of American and British Paintings, a post he has held since 2002, Kelly will succeed Alan Shestack, who has been deputy director and chief curator of the National Gallery of Art since December 1993. 

“Alan Shestack has had a stellar career of 43 years of leadership and service to some of America’s finest museums and has overseen major developments during his 15 years at the National Gallery of Art,” said Powell. “Franklin Kelly’s scholarship, curatorial expertise, and knowledge of the Gallery and the art world have prepared him well for his new role as deputy director and chief curator.”

The deputy director and chief curator of the National Gallery of Art directs the work of numerous departments including curatorial, conservation, education, imaging and visual services, lending services, library, publications and the Web site, and registrar. 

Franklin Kelly

Franklin Kelly has spent some 21 years in curatorial positions at the National Gallery of Art—primarily in American paintings—and is recognized as one of the world’s leading authorities on American art, with expertise on the artists of the Hudson River School. He was a co-organizer of such critically acclaimed Gallery exhibitions as J.M.W. Turner in 2007–2008 and Winslow Homer in 1995–1996, and was the curator of Frederic Edwin Church in 1989–1990. Among the significant masterpieces he has helped the Gallery to acquire are John Martin’s Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon (1816), Thomas Cole’s Italian Coast Scene with Ruined Tower (1838), Albert Bierstadt’s Lake Lucerne (1858), Winslow Homer’s Home, Sweet Home (c. 1863), William Michael Harnett’s The Old Violin (1886), and Martin Johnson Heade’s Giant Magnolias on a Blue Velvet Cloth (c. 1890). 

Among the many books and exhibition catalogues authored by Kelly are Frederic Edwin Church and the National Landscape (1988), John Francis Cropsey: The Spirit of War and The Spirit of Peace (1994), and Thomas Cole’s Paintings of Eden (1995). He has written articles and essays on a wide range of artists, from William Blake to Charles Sheeler.

Kelly served as curator of collections at Washington’s Corcoran Gallery of Art from 1988 to 1990 and was associate curator of paintings at The Minneapolis Institute of Arts from 1983 to 1985.  Before that, he spent two years as a Samuel H. Kress Fellow at the National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts. He has been a professor in the department of art history and archaeology at the University of Maryland, College Park, since 1990 and taught at the University of Delaware, Newark, in 1995, and at Princeton University in 1991.

Kelly earned a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Delaware in 1985, where he was awarded the Sypherd Prize for his outstanding dissertation in the humanities. He received an M.A. in art history from Williams College, Williamstown, MA, in 1979, and a B.A. in art history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, in 1974.

Born in 1953 in Richmond, VA, Kelly currently resides in Washington, DC, with his wife, photographer Karen Jordan. 

Alan Shestack

During his time at the National Gallery of Art, Alan Shestack has been involved in thousands of acquisitions and hundreds of publications, overseen the development of the Web site and the reorganization of photography services into a state-of-the-art department of imaging and visual services utilizing digital media, and directed the expansion of educational programs, such as family programs and films, special programs for local elementary and high school students, and a summer institute for teachers from throughout the United States. 

Previously, Shestack was director, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, from 1987 to 1993; director, The Minneapolis Institute of Arts, from 1985 to 1987; adjunct professor of the history of art, Yale University, and director, Yale University Art Gallery, from 1971 to 1985; curator of prints and drawings, Yale University Art Gallery, from 1968 to 1971; and curator, graphic art, National Gallery of Art, Washington, and the Lessing Rosenwald Collection, Jenkintown, PA, from 1965 to 1968.

Shestack’s special area of expertise is German and Netherlandish art of the Reformation era, with an emphasis on prints and drawings. His scholarly writings include Fifteenth-Century Engravings of Northern Europe (1967), and Hans Baldung Grien: Prints and Drawings, with co-author James Marrow (1981), which won the Art Library Society Award for best scholarly book. He has authored numerous articles on European art of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries and on museum issues. Shestack also served as president of the Association of Art Museum Directors from 1983 to 1984.

While a David E. Finley Fellow of the National Gallery of Art (named for the Gallery’s first director) between 1963 and 1965, Shestack attended the Courtauld Institute, University of London, and the University of Munich and Central Institute for Art History, Munich. He earned an M.A. in 1963 from Harvard University and a B.A. with honors and distinction in 1961 from Wesleyan University, Middletown, CT.

Born in 1938 in New York City, Shestack currently resides in Washington, DC, with his wife, immigration attorney Nancy Jane Shestack.

General Information

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Department of Communications
National Gallery of Art
2000 South Club Drive
Landover, MD 20785
phone: (202) 842-6353
e-mail: [email protected]
Anabeth Guthrie
Chief of Communications
(202) 842-6804
[email protected]

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