Janet Bishop, Curator of Painting and Sculpture

Janet Bishop, Curator of Painting and Sculpture

Janet Bishop
Curator of Painting and Sculpture
SFMOMA, San Francisco

Janet received a B.A. in art history and psychology at Cornell University, and has an M.A. in art history from Columbia University.

While attending Cornell she worked in the print room at the Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art and “got hooked” on museums. Janet found the job to be a perfect way of bringing together her interests in art history and the actual art objects and knew she wanted to work in museums from that time forward.


In New York Janet worked as conservation assistant in the division of drawings and archives at the Avery Architectural and Fine Arts Library at Columbia University , and as the Collection Manager of the Printmaking Workshop.

When Janet began her career at SFMOMA as a curatorial assistant, she had the good fortune of working with the 4 curatorial departments (painting and sculpture, photography, architecture and design, and media arts) giving her the opportunity to learn from curators in each of those fields. She says one of the most exciting aspects of working as a contemporary art curator is having the opportunity to work with living artists.

Janet describes her function as a curator for a collecting institution as being involved in both building the collection (working to identify exceptional works of art to purchase for the collection and reviewing  proposed gifts to the museum), and organizing exhibitions (presentations of the permanent collection, in-house special exhibitions, and hosting exhibitions organized by other institutions).

When organizing an exhibition, Janet is looking for artists of extraordinary talent whose work merits a fresh look. When putting together a group show she might look for themes that run through artists’ works, considering our cultural moment.

Tracking the pieces for shows can involve a fair amount of detective work.  For one show that Janet organized, a painting that was sold in the Bay Area in the 1960s was eventually found on a dining room wall in the South of France after changing hands several times in the interim.

Recent exhibitions that Janet enjoyed working on at SFMOMA have been the 2006 SECA Art Award, featuring work by Sarah Cain, Kota Ezawa, Amy Franceschini, Mitzi Pederson, and Leslie Shows-five artists all born in the 1970s who Janet considers among the most engaging young artists working in the Bay Area today.  Other favorite SFMOMA exhibitions include Robert  Bechtle: A Retrospective, Fact/Fiction: Contemporary Art that Walks the Line, and 010101: Art in Technological Times, as well as Take 2: Women Revisiting Art History, which she organized for the Mills College Art Museum.

Janet recommends:
the PBS Series titled Art 21A collection of interviews with contemporary artists on DVD and VHS that are accompanied by books.