NOMA Appoints Brian Piper as Freeman Family Curator of Photographs, Prints, and Drawings


Piper Joined the New Orleans Museum of Art’s Curatorial Team in 2017 

NEW ORLEANS – Susan M. Taylor, The Montine McDaniel Freeman Director of the New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA), and Lisa Rotondo-McCord, Deputy Director of Curatorial Affairs, announced today the appointment of W. Brian Piper as the museum’s new Freeman Family Curator of Photographs, Prints, and Drawings. Piper began his work in this new role on April 3, 2023.

“We are thrilled to have Brian leading NOMA’s longstanding work to celebrate photography as fine art,” said Susan M. Taylor. “The museum has one of the most important collections of photographs in the country, and I look forward to Brian’s work at the helm of the department’s exciting next chapter.”

In this new position, Piper leads NOMA’s Department of Photographs—caring for and developing a collection of over 16,000 artworks ranging from the 1840s to the present day. The museum has regularly presented photography exhibitions since 1918, establishing one of the longest-running photography programs in the United States.

“I am excited to welcome Brian into this new leadership role within NOMA’s Curatorial department,” said Lisa Rotondo-McCord. “Brian’s deep knowledge of the museum’s collection and his unique perspective on the histories of photography and visual culture well position him to ensure NOMA’s collection and exhibitions remain at the forefront of the field.”

Piper joined the museum in 2017 as Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Curatorial Fellow for Photography before being named NOMA’s Assistant Curator of Photographs. His research focuses on 20th-century African American photography, vernacular uses of photographs, and histories of race and photography.

Piper’s most recent project at NOMA was Called to the Camera: Black American Studio Photographers, a groundbreaking survey of the social, political, and artistic impact of photographers working in commercial portrait studios. Other curatorial credits include You Are Here: A Brief History of Photography and Place, Lee Friedlander in Louisiana, Beyond the Frame: Photography and Native American Lives, and the multi-media exhibition Changing Course: Reflections on New Orleans Histories. He is currently preparing an exhibition about the relationship between photographs and written language. 

Piper holds a Ph.D. in American Studies from the College of William and Mary. Prior to his arrival in New Orleans, Piper held a variety of teaching and curatorial positions at the College of William and Mary, Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, and Valentine Richmond History Center.

“Being one of the first American museums to seriously consider photography a fine art, NOMA’s permanent collection represents an important range of work from the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries,” said Piper. “I look forward to building on this legacy and continuing to think expansively about the crucial ways people have used photography to describe themselves and their world, both inside and outside of museums.”

Piper’s appointment follows the departure of Russell Lord, who has taken on the role of Director of Exhibitions and Curatorial Initiatives at the American Federation of Arts. Among Lord’s accomplishments during his tenure at NOMA from 2011 to 2023 are co-curating East of the Mississippi: Nineteenth-Century American Landscape Photography, organizing Gordon Parks: The Making of an Argument, and authoring the book Looking Again: Photography at the New Orleans Museum of Art.


About the New Orleans Museum of Art 

The New Orleans Museum of Art is committed to uniting, inspiring, and engaging diverse communities and cultures through the arts. With more 40,000 works of art encompassing 5,000 years of history, NOMA and the renowned Sydney and Walda Besthoff Sculpture Garden offer innovative experiences for lifelong learning and interpretation.

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