Washington, DC—Today the National Gallery of Art announced that Franklin Kelly will return to full-time curatorial work as the museum's Christiane Ellis Valone Curator of American Paintings. Since 2008, Kelly has served with distinction in administrative roles as an executive officer, first as deputy director and chief curator (2008–2019) and, most recently, in the combined position of chief curator and Christiane Ellis Valone Curator of American Paintings. In this newly expanded role, Kelly will undertake a variety of scholarly projects, including researching the preeminent collection of American paintings he has been so instrumental in building and producing a comprehensive history of the place of American art at the National Gallery since its founding in 1941. The transition will also permit Kelly's greater participation as a popular speaker about art in general and the National Gallery in particular, as well as in the vast educational offerings of the museum, including lectures and other public programs.
Passionate about scholarship and curatorial work, especially in American painting, Kelly's history at the museum covers several decades, and his loyalty to the mission and contributions to art history on behalf of the National Gallery are evident in acclaimed exhibitions, acquisitions, and publications.
"Frank's impact on the National Gallery is laudatory and remarkable," said Kaywin Feldman, director of the National Gallery of Art. "When Frank accepted the deputy director position in 2008, he set aside his stellar career as a curator, a professor, and a scholar of American and British paintings, and put his whole heart and mind to managing the executive administration of a significant area of the National Gallery. I am personally thrilled Frank will be continuing at the museum to assist me in fulfilling our renewed mission with his expertise, deep institutional knowledge, scholarship, and considerable curatorial skills. Frank has dedicated his career to the Gallery, and we are all the better for it."
"It was a great honor to have served in an administrative role for the past 12 years, and I am delighted that I will be with the National Gallery as it continues its traditions of excellence and moves ahead in exciting new ways. I look forward, especially, to a number of scholarly projects involving our great permanent collection, and the central role of American art at the Gallery throughout its history," said Franklin Kelly, Christiane Ellis Valone Curator of American Paintings, National Gallery of Art.
Franklin Kelly began his career at the National Gallery in the summer of 1980 as an intern in the Department of American Art and was subsequently a predoctoral fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts (CASVA) from 1981 to 1983, working on his dissertation on Frederic Edwin Church. Prior to becoming deputy director and chief curator in 2008, Kelly served for more than 20 years as a curator (including senior curator, 2002–2008) in the Department of American and British Paintings. During that time, he was instrumental in elevating the Gallery's reputation in the field of American art in particular. The masterpieces Kelly helped acquire (including works by Thomas Cole, George Caleb Bingham, Martin Johnson Heade, William Harnett, Winslow Homer, John Martin, and Sir Edwin Landseer), the acclaimed exhibitions he oversaw (such as those on the artists Frederic Edwin Church, Winslow Homer, Edward Hopper, and J.M.W. Turner), and the groundbreaking scholarly publications he produced have all brought enormous credit to the Gallery.
In his role as deputy director, Kelly oversaw a significant amount of the National Gallery's public programs, ensured growth in the areas of digital imaging and the museum's important open access image policy, secured for the Gallery's permanent collection many incredible works of art (masterpieces by European and American artists), and supported critical advances in museum conservation and science. He managed all of the departments—from museum registration to curatorial—involved in the landmark Corcoran Gallery of Art transition and acquisition, which required a lengthy inventory of the collection and extended custodial care.