The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) has announced Asma Naeem as its next director, effective February 1. Naeem is the first person of color to lead the institution since its founding in 1914. She steps into the role from her previous position as BMA’s interim codirector, which she occupied alongside Christine Dietze since June 2022. Naeem succeeds the well-regarded Christopher Bedford, whose sometimes controversial tenure lasted from 2016 to 2022, when he departed to helm the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art.
“The BMA is committed to bringing diversity and equity into every aspect of its work, from the exhibitions and programs we develop to the works we acquire to our internal working culture,” said James D. Thornton, chair of the BMA’s board of trustees. “Since she joined the museum in 2018, Dr. Naeem has been integral to shaping this vision and to the strides we have made to realize it. Her dedication to this effort and her distinct perspective on how we can continue to create change made her the ideal choice to lead the BMA into the future. We are inspired and excited by the possibilities for our beloved museum with Dr. Naeem as our new director and look forward to our work together.”
Naeem arrived at the BMA in 2018 as the institution’s Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curator. In that role, she curated solo shows for Candice Breitz, Isaac Julien, and Valerie Maynard and organized the exhibition “Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love,” which recently closed at the BMA and is set to travel to three other US arts institutions. Her next major exhibition, “The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century,” opens at the BMA in April before traveling to the Saint Louis Art Museum. Prior roles include various curatorial positions at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC. Before becoming a curator, Naeem worked in the field of law as an assistant DA at the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, and later as an assistant bar counsel at the Office of Bar Counsel in Washington, DC.
Born in Karachi, Pakistan, Naeem immigrated to the US as a young child with her parents. She grew up in the Baltimore area and received a BA in art history and political science from Johns Hopkins University before going on to earn a JD from Temple University, an MA from American University, and a Ph.D. in art history from the University of Maryland.
“I am excited to now lead the BMA as we continue to explore, experiment, and envision what a museum can be and mean to its immediate community and broader networks of artists and partners,” said Naeem. “As we move forward, there is an incredible opportunity to bring a greater depth of local and global voices into the dialogues about the history and evolution of art, about museums as community spaces, and about the relationship between internal culture to external experience—and in doing so create meaningful change in the field. I am looking forward to working with the exceptional team here and with our many current and future collaborators.”