Stephanie Smith is a curator, writer, and arts leader committed to critical, collaborative, and experimental forms of museum practice and audience engagement. Her research interests focus on socially-engaged contemporary art, including the intersection of social practice and 21st-century cultural institutions.
Prior to joining the ICA, Smith was Chief Curator at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) in Toronto, one of the largest art museums in North America. She oversaw the curators, conservation, publications, and library and archives; and served on the Gallery’s Leadership Team. While at the AGO, she strengthened and built the curatorial team through key appointments, fostered new forms of cross-institutional collaboration, and developed a vibrant exhibition program. Key initiatives included overseeing the creative development and co-leading the advisory committee for Jean Michel Basquiat: Now’s the Time (2015) and crafting a vibrant exhibition schedule that includes pathbreaking AGO-generated projects such as Outsiders: American Photography and Film, 1950s–1980s (2016), Theaster Gates: How to Build a House Museum (2016), and Toronto: Tributes and Tributaries (2016). Smith also secured important traveling exhibitions, including the Tate Modern’s landmark Georgia O’Keeffe (2017) and the Hirshhorn’s Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors (2018).
Smith also has extensive experience working with university art museums. Before the AGO, she worked at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art for fifteen years in several roles, including serving as Deputy Director and Chief Curator. She was also a curator at the Rice University Art Gallery in Houston. She began her career as curatorial assistant at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston.
Smith has organized many well-regarded exhibitions, including Song Dong’s Communal Courtyard, AGO, 2016; Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art, Smart Museum, 2012 (winner of the Emily Hall Tremaine Exhibition Award); Adrian Piper: The Mythic Being, Smart Museum, 2006; Beyond Green: Toward a Sustainable Art, Smart Museum, 2004; Dawoud Bey: The Chicago Project, Smart Museum, 2003; and Sophie Calle: Romances, Contemporary Arts Museum, Houston, 1994. Smith was one of the curators of AGORA: 4th Athens Biennale, Athens, Greece, 2013; and co-curated Heartland with Charles Esche and Kerstin Niemann at the Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven, the Netherlands, 2008 and Smart Museum, 2009.
Smith’s major projects include substantial books, and she has written for international contemporary art publications including Parkett and Afterall journal, for which she served as contributing editor. She also edited Institutions and Imaginaries (2014), a book that helped launch the Chicago Social Practice History Series overseen by Mary Jane Jacob and Kate Zeller.
Smith received her M.A. in art history and her B.A. in history and art history at Rice University.