Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art Names Barbara O’Brien as Director

The Board of Trustees of the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art is pleased to announce that Barbara O’Brien, the Museum’s current chief curator and director of exhibitions and collections, will become the Kemper Museum’s new Director effective immediately. O’Brien is a curator and critic with a strong record of scholarship and advocacy in the contemporary art arena. Until the end of the year, she will serve as Director and Chief Curator.

“The Museum’s trustees and I are excited to promote from within the organization.” said R. Crosby Kemper, founder and chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Museum. Kemper added, “Barbara O’Brien brings a wealth of curatorial and executive experience to the position.”

O’Brien said about her appointment, “I am honored to be asked by the Board of Trustees to lead the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art as it approaches its twentieth anniversary. My career has taken me from San Francisco to St. Paul and most recently Boston, but as a native Midwesterner I feel the most pride in the growing reputation of the Kemper Museum on a national level.”

In her nearly three years at the Museum—first as Curator in 2009 and then as Chief Curator and Director of Exhibitions and Collections in 2011—O’Brien has organized exhibitions that will travel across the United States to museums in Portland, Maine; Washington, DC; and Naples, Florida. She has curated a number of exhibitions, including Lois Dodd: Catching the Light, Eric Fertman: Here’s Your Hat, What’s Your Hurry?, Wilbur Niewald: The Studio Portrait, Jeanne Quinn: Ceramic In(ter)ventions, The Big Reveal, Ana Maria Hernando: When the Women Sing, and a series of exhibitions called Acquisitions in Context highlighting works by Marc Swanson, Eric Forstmann, and June Ahrens. During her tenure, the Kemper Museum has added works of art to the permanent collection by artists from Germany, Ireland, Argentina, China, Japan, Egypt, Morocco, and from across the United States, including works by artists from Kansas City and the surrounding region. She has also overseen renovations and a redesign of gallery spaces at Kemper at the Crossroads.

For more general information about the Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, visit

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