As senior curator and then director, Sarah Schroth presided over the transition from the old Duke University Museum of Art to the Nasher Museum we know today. (She helped put it on the national map with an exhibit she curated, El Greco to Velázquez: Art During the Reign of Philip III, which earned a top-10 nod from Time.)

After 25 years of service, Schroth is preparing to retire in May. Today, the Nasher announced her replacement, Trevor Schoonmaker, which should come as no surprise and welcome news to those who value the Nasher’s searching global view of contemporary art. 

Schoonmaker became the museum’s first curator of contemporary art in 2006 and chief curator in 2013. He has also been deputy director for the past two years.

He has strengthened the Nasher’s collection and exhibition of works by historically underrepresented artists, especially those of the African diaspora, an expertise he first honed as an independent curator. (He had a notable early success with a nationally traveling exhibit of Afrobeat legend Fela Anikulapo-Kuti.)  

Schoonmaker has helped raise the museum’s profile around the country, serving as the artistic director of an influential triennial in New Orleans and launching significant exhibitions from Durham.

Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool (2008) played a major role in revivifying Hendricks’s career. The Record: Contemporary Art and Vinyl (2010) was a crossover sensation. Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art (2016) made us see our home state anew.

Schoonmaker takes the helm of an eerily empty museum on May 8.

Contact arts and culture editor Brian Howe at