Nov. 16, 2021
The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art has named Debra Diamond, the current curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the museum, the Elizabeth Moynihan Curator for South and Southeast Asian Art. This permanent curatorial position was made possible by a landmark $4.5 million grant from the Leon Levy Foundation honoring the foundation’s trustee Elizabeth Moynihan and her extensive work as an architectural historian in South Asia. $4 million will be used to establish the curatorial position; the remaining $500,000 will be used to establish the Elizabeth Moynihan Research Fund for South Asian Art, providing essential funding for curatorial research. The grant will play a critical role in supporting exhibitions of South Asian art.
In this role, Diamond will steward the museum’s collection of South and South East Asian art. With more than 1,400 objects, the museums’ South Asian. Southeast Asian and Himalayan collections illuminate rich histories, narratives and connections. As the museum prepares to celebrate its centennial in 2023 and to embark on its next 100 years, Diamond will play an instrumental role in increasing public understanding of, and appreciation for, South and Southeast Asian arts and cultures.
“It is fitting that the National Museum of Asian Art has named the esteemed Dr. Debra Diamond to become the first Elizabeth Moynihan Curator for South and Southeast Asian Art,” said Shelby White, founding trustee of the Leon Levy Foundation. “We are delighted to honor our cherished trustee Elizabeth Moynihan, an architectural historian with a deep knowledge of India, the Mughal dynasty, and its exquisite gardens. The National Museum of Asian Art is our nation’s preeminent museum for the preservation and exhibition of exceptional collections of such art.”
“It is the honor of a lifetime to be named the Elizabeth Moynihan Curator for South and Southeast Asian Art,” said Diamond. “I’m deeply grateful to the Leon Levy Foundation for these transformational endowments, which will enable us to dramatically increase knowledge and appreciation of the arts and cultures of South and Southeast Asia.”
A specialist in Indian court painting and the visual culture of yoga, Diamond received her doctorate from Columbia University. A curator of both historical and contemporary Asian art exhibitions, Diamond won numerous awards for her projects, including Smithsonian Secretary’s research prizes, a First Place Award of Excellence from the Association of Art Museum Curators for “Yoga: The Art of Transformation” (2013) and the 2010 College Art Association’s Alfred H. Barr Jr. award for best museum scholarship for the catalogue, Garden and Cosmos: The Royal Paintings of Jodhpur (2008). In her curating, Diamond emphasizes cross-disciplinary collaboration and new media to maximize the inspirational potential of extraordinary objects. Her most recent exhibition, “Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice Across Asia” (2017), was accompanied by Paths to Perfection, the museums’ first handbook of its Buddhist collections, three apps and two immersive spaces.
About the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art
The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, are located on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Committed to preserving, exhibiting and interpreting exemplary works of art, the museum houses exceptional collections of Asian art, with more than 45,000 objects dating from the Neolithic period to today. Renowned and iconic objects originate from China, Japan, Korea, South and Southeast Asia, the ancient Near East and the Islamic world. The Freer Gallery also holds a signiﬁcant group of American works of art largely dating to the late 19th century. It boasts the world’s largest collection of diverse works by James McNeill Whistler, including the famed Peacock Room. The National Museum of Asian Art is dedicated to increasing understanding of the arts of Asia through a broad portfolio of exhibitions, publications, conservation, research and education.