Michael J. Bramwell Appointed Boston MFA’s First Folk Art Curator

The Boston Museum of Fine Arts has named Michael J. Bramwell its inaugural Joyce Linde Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art, the Boston Globe reports. The newly created position, under the aegis of the institution’s Art of the Americas department, and the recent establishment of the museum’s Folk Art Initiative represent an attempt on the part of the Boston MFA to elevate the genre. Folk art, a loose term applied to a wide range of artistic forms and expressions, and which is often attributed to anonymous or enslaved people, typically takes a back seat to works by European and American artists, and is frequently subsumed under broader rubrics at most major US museums or presented in institutions solely devoted to its exhibition.

Bramwell will assume his new role June 1, working with colleagues in various departments to create exhibitions and public programming aimed at raising the profile of the museum’s folk art collection and making it more appealing and accessible to modern audiences. The Boston institution’s expansive collection includes a wide array of objects from the American Northeast, including quilts, furniture, paintings, and works on paper, most of which date to the eighteenth or nineteenth century.

“I’m honored to have the opportunity of working at a world-class museum like the Museum of Fine Arts,” Bramwell said. “It is both a privilege and a blessing to have been selected as the inaugural Linde curator, which affords the opportunity to raise the national and international profile of folk and self-taught art, and also, the chance to escort fresh, diverse voices into high cultural zones.”

Bramwell, himself a visual artist, comes to the Boston MFA from the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, where he is a visiting guest curator. He previously held positions at the North Carolina Museum of Art, Raleigh, and at MoMA PS1 and the Whitney Museum of American Art, both in New York. Bramwell is currently working on obtaining his PhD from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he is examining  the work of enslaved nineteenth-century potter David Drake, aka Dave the Potter.

“As a practicing artist and academically trained art historian, Michael Bramwell brings a distinct perspective to folk and self-taught art,” said Ethan Lasser, chair of the Boston MFA’s Art of the Americas department. “His commitment to telling new stories and reaching beyond the canon promises to reenergize the display and interpretation of this material at the MFA.”

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