JoAnne Northrup

Curator / Director

Northrup is known for innovative and prescient expositions that connect the avant garde to the audience. Northrup founded Nevada Museum of Art’s contemporary art program in 2012. As Curatorial Director and Curator of Contemporary Art she mounted cutting edge exhibitions including the nationally touring “Unsettled” (2017-19), organized in collaboration with iconic Los Angeles artist, Ed Ruscha.

It was at the NMA that Northrup’s exhibitions won one Hyperallergic Best of/Top 20 Exhibitions of the Year award, and two American Alliance of Museums Prizes for Best Publication.

Prior to her time in Nevada, Northrup was Fulbright Senior Research Scholar at the ZKM Center for Art + Media in Karlsruhe, Germany. As Chief Curator (2008-2011) and Senior Curator (2001-2008) at the San Jose Museum of Art, in California, she curated and authored the first nationally touring survey exhibitions and monographs on contemporary media artists Jennifer Steinkamp (2006) and Leo Villareal (2010).

An established museum leader, Northrup has worked in nine museums in the USA and Europe. She’s hired and mentored a score of talented staff, many of which now hold leadership positions in major museums.

“navigates the complexities of the museum with grace and determination . . . she has total integrity”
Leo Villareal, Artist

“congratulations for being so ahead of the curve.  you approach it as an artist and a medium”
Mary E. Sabbatino, Vice President, Galerie Lelong

“you seem to be great at creating avalanches from snowballs”
Ana Teresa Fernandez, Artist

“we couldn’t wait to share your wonderful work. it’s sophisticated, and layered with meaning, but so accessible”
Kathleen Durham, Docent, Nevada Museum of Art

“a curator of demonstrated acumen and ambition”
Kenneth Baker, Art Critic, San Francisco Chronicle


  • Grants Panelist, National Endowment for the Arts, 2020 & 2007
  • Hyperallergic Best US Exhibit of 2018 – Top 20 List for “Unsettled” exhibition
  • American Alliance of Museums 2018 Prize for Best Publication for “Unsettled” book
  • American Alliance of Museums 2015 Prize for Best Publication for “Late Harvest” book
  • The Nevada International Women’s Forum Carolyn M. Sparks Founders Award, 2015
  • Art Matters Grant Nominator 2013, 2014
  • Creative Capital Evaluator 2012, Emerging Fields
  • U.S. State Department, International Exchange of Scholars, Senior Research Scholar, Fulbright Scholar Program, 2011-12


  • Presenter, “We Belong Here,” Landscapes of Change Conference for Museum Professionals, Anchorage Museum, February 17, 2021
  • Curatorial Panelist for Site-Responsive Art Biennial, I-Park Foundation, Inc., East Haddam, CT, Nov. 2020-Feb. 2021
  • Grants Panelist, Museums Panel B, National Endowment for the Arts, Oct.-Nov. 2020
  • “Conversation: Leo Villareal and JoAnne Northrup,” Pace Gallery, Oct. 8, 2020
  • Lecture, “The Regional Museum,” Curatorial Studies Class, University of Southern California, Oct. 5, 2020
  • Panel Discussion, Moderator, “Judy Chicago in Conversation with William Fox,” Sept. 20, 2020
  • Lecture, “Curatorial Activism: Climate Change,” California College of the Arts, Sept. 15, 2020
  • Lecture, “Art of the Greater West: Pre-Columbian to Contemporary Art,” Wichita Art Museum, Jan. 16, 2020
  • Moderator, “Conversation with Ed Ruscha and Andrea Zittel,” Palm Springs Art Museum, Feb. 28, 2019
  • Lecture, “Unsettled,” Palm Springs Art Museum, Nov. 2, 2018
  • “In Conversation: Ed Ruscha and JoAnne Northrup,” Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV, Sept 23, 2017, published in Gagosian Quarterly, Dec. 4, 2017
  • Juror, Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund for Individual Artists 2016, with Valerie Cassel Oliver, Senior Curator, Contemporary Arts Museum Houston and Julie Rodrigues Widholm, Director and Chief Curator, DePaul Art Museum, Chicago
  • Juror, 2016 Visual Arts Fellowship, Utah Division of Arts & Museums, Dept. of Heritage & Arts
  • Lecture, “Bringing the World to Northern Nevada,” Capital City Arts Initiative, Carson City, Nevada, March 31, 2015. Lecture also presented at Dayton High School, Dayton NV Feb. 23, 2015; Sierra Nevada College, Incline Village, NV March 12, 2015; Douglas High School, Minden, NV, March 30, 2015
  • Juror, Awards of Excellence in the category of Catalogues/Publications from Institutions with an Operating Budget under $4 million. Association of Art Museum Curators, 2015
  • Gallery Talk, “The Curator Is In: JoAnne Northrup on Late Harvest,” Nevada Museum of Art, Oct. 3, 2014. Lecture reprised Dec. 19, 2014 and Jan. 16, 2015
  • Curator, Knight Foundation Gallery, “Anne and Mark’s Art Party” San Jose, Sept. 20-25, 2014
  • Presentation, “Late Harvest,” Pecha Kucha Curatorial Slam, Association of Art Museum Curators Annual Conference, Detroit, Michigan, May 5, 2014
  • Art Matters Grant Nominator 2013, 2014
  • Creative Capital Evaluator 2012, Emerging Fields
  • Lecture, “Luminous Currents: Tracing Modernism from Bauhaus to Beehive,” The Art, Technology, and Culture Colloquium, UC Berkeley’s Center for New Media, December 3, 2012
  • Co-Chair, panel discussion, “Luminous Currents: Homo Sapiens Technologica and the Return of Post-Painterly Abstraction,” College Art Association, Los Angeles, February 2012
  • Lecture, “Luminous Currents: the Return of Post-Painterly Abstraction,” Baden-Württemberg Seminar of the Heidelberg Center for American Studies,
  • Kunstverein Neuhausen, Neuhausen, Germany, October 26, 2011
  • Juror, 2011 Jay DeFeo annual MFA prize, Mills College, Oakland, CA, May 2011
  • Juror, 2010 Essay Prize, Association of Art Museum Curators, April 14, 2011
  • Moderator, panel discussion with Gordon Baldwin and Brian English, “Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits,” SJMA, May 19, 2011
  • Gallery Talk, “Robert Mapplethorpe: Portraits,” SJMA, April 2011
  • Gallery Talk, “Leo Villareal: Animating Light,” Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV, March 4, 2011
  • Juror, Temporary Public Art Installation, City of Culver City, July 2010
  • Guest Critic, Stanford University, Dept. of Art Practice, Graduate Program, April 29-30, 2010
  • Presentation, “Robots: Evolution of a Cultural Icon,” Boise Art Museum, Boise, ID, April 1, 2010
  • Guest Critic, San Jose State University Art Dept., Graduate Photography Seminar, March 23, 2010.
  • Docent Training Lectures, “Collections Management,” and “Media Art,” SJMA, March 23 & 25, 2010
  • Chair, Panel Discussion, “The Art of Games,” Indiecade International Festival of Independent Games, Culver City, CA, October 3, 2009
  • Juror, Indiecade International Festival of Independent Games, Los Angeles, CA, 2008, 2009, 2010
  • Judge and Presenter, Bay Area Annual, Sanchez Art Center, Pacifica, CA, 2009
  • Juror, Humboldt Arts Council Annual Juried Exhibition, Eureka, CA, 2009
  • Lecture, “Techno-Sublime: the Art of Jennifer Steinkamp,” Art + Environment Conference, Nevada Museum of Art, Reno, NV, Oct. 4, 2008
  • Juror, competition, Bridge Art Fair Miami, 2008
  • Juror, Berkeley Art Center, 25th National Juried Exhibition, 2008
  • Judge, Artshift San Jose, First Annual Artshift Awards, 2008
  • Panelist, Cultural Council of Santa Cruz County, Visual Arts Seminar, May 11, 2007
  • Seminar, San Jose State University, “Theories of Art History and Art Criticism,” March 12, 2007
  • Lecture, Bernal Bubbles Soapbox Lectures, “ArtCars & Burning Man: Art Outside the Institution,” Feb. 3, 2007
  • Judge, CG Society-NVART Competition, Amazing Creations, 2007
  • Grants Panelist, National Endowment for the Arts, Museums: Access to Artistic Excellence, 2007
  • Seminar, San Francisco Art Institute, Summer Art Writing Conf., “The Artist’s Monograph,” August 21, 2006
  • Panelist, San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art, “Holding Patterns: The Art of Collecting,” October 2005