Gregory Harris Appointed Donald and Marilyn Keough Family Curator of Photography at High Museum of Art
On staff at the Museum since 2016, Harris has served as associate curator of photography since 2018 and spearheaded important acquisitions, exhibitions and commission projects
The High Museum of Art announced today the appointment of Gregory Harris as its Donald and Marilyn Keough Family curator of photography. Harris joined the High in 2016 as assistant curator of photography and was promoted to associate curator in 2018. In his five years with the Museum, he has helped build the photography collection through key acquisitions of work by Dawoud Bey, Evelyn Hofer and Mickalene Thomas, among other notable artists, and commission projects by Alex Harris and Mark Steinmetz; curated more than a dozen exhibitions, such as “William Christenberry: Time & Texture” (2018) and “Amy Elkins: Black is the Day, Black is the Night” (2017); and led the department during the major 2018 collection reinstallation. He will assume his new role on Aug. 2, 2021.
“Throughout his time at the Museum, Greg has demonstrated excellence in leadership, scholarship and curatorial vision,” said Rand Suffolk, Nancy and Holcombe T. Green, Jr., director of the High. “He stewarded the photography department through important periods of transition and has shown incredible commitment to innovation. We look forward to supporting Greg’s efforts to strengthen our extraordinary photography program, a program that continues to build bridges with our audience through artwork with deep connections to our region and active reflections of the communities we serve.”
Added Harris, “This is a very exciting moment for photography at the High. The program has great momentum with several important exhibitions in development and dynamic new galleries to display our growing collection. I’m delighted to have the opportunity to deepen the High’s commitment to our communities and to showing diverse photographers from around the world.”
The High’s Chief Curator Kevin Tucker further noted, “Greg’s deep expertise, collaborative nature, and passion for photography as an omnipresent medium reflective of everyday life will ensure the continued, vibrant growth of this department within the High’s curatorial program. We anticipate his leadership of the Museum’s photography department will undoubtedly expand upon the foundation established by his predecessors and further enrich the reach and impact of one of the most important public collections of photography in the country.”
The High is home to the most significant photography program in the American Southeast. The Museum began acquiring photographs in the early 1970s, making it one of the earliest American art museums to commit to collecting the medium. Harris will oversee the photography department, including related exhibitions and programs such as the “Picturing the South” commission series, as well as its collection of more than 8,000 works spanning the 1840s to the present. With strengths in American modernist and documentary traditions from the mid-20th century and a robust commitment to contemporary practice, the photography collection features a strong base of prints related to the American South, which are situated within a global context that is both regionally relevant and internationally significant.
Among these important works are one of the largest collections of photographs of the civil rights movement and some of the country’s strongest monographic collections of photographs by Eugène Atget, Ilse Bing, Dawoud Bey, Harry Callahan, William Christenberry, Walker Evans, Evelyn Hofer, Clarence John Laughlin, Abelardo Morell and Peter Sekaer. As part of its 2018 collection reinstallation, the High expanded the Lucinda Weil Bunnen Gallery for Photography by 3,000 square feet, offering greater opportunities for ambitious rotating exhibitions.
Since joining the Museum in 2016, Harris has curated exhibitions including “William Christenberry: Time & Texture” (2018), “Amy Elkins: Black is the Day, Black is the Night” (2017) and “The Spirit of the Place: Photographs by Jack Leigh” (2017). For the Museum’s 2018 collection reinstallation, he surveyed a broad sweep of the history of photography through prints from the High’s holdings in “Look Again: 45 Years of Collecting Photography.” His collaborative projects have included “Way Out There: The Art of Southern Backroads” (2019), a joint exhibition with the High’s folk and self-taught art department.
Throughout his tenure at the High, Harris has led the Museum’s “Picturing the South” series, which launched in 1996 and supports contemporary photographers in creating new bodies of work inspired by the American South for the High’s collection. He developed two exhibitions that debuted work from the series: “Our Strange New Land: Photographs by Alex Harris” (2019) and “Mark Steinmetz: Terminus” (2018). His forthcoming projects include the exhibition “Picturing the South: 25 Years” (Nov. 5, 2021-Feb. 6, 2022) to commemorate the 25th anniversary of the series.
Harris has secured many significant acquisitions for the High’s photography collection, including more than 40 photographs by Evelyn Hofer, a gift/purchase of 41 prints by Dawoud Bey (including his “Birmingham Portfolio”), three photographs by South African artist Zanele Muholi, Mickalene Thomas’ “Les Trois Femmes Deux” (2018), and new work by the latest photographers commissioned for “Picturing the South”: Sheila Pree Bright, Jim Goldberg and An-My Lê.