Phoenix Art Museum announces retirement of Asian art curator, plans for national search

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Phoenix Art Museum announces retirement of Asian art curator, plans for national search
Janet Baker, PhD, has been named Curator Emerita of Asian Art in honor of her distinguished service during her more than two decades as the Museum’s curator of Asian art.

PHOENIX, ARIZ.- Phoenix Art Museum has announced that Janet Baker, PhD, has been named Curator Emerita of Asian Art in honor of her distinguished service during her more than two decades as the Museum’s curator of Asian art. Baker, who is retiring on August 31, joined the Museum in 2000 and over her 23-year tenure guided the expansion of the Museum’s holdings in Chinese, Japanese, Sri Lankan, Indian, and contemporary Asian art, more than doubling the collection by adding 3,000+ objects. She also organized wide-ranging exhibitions that explored art forms from across the Asian continent spanning from antiquity to the present. Recently, Baker stewarded a major acquisition of more than 50 Indonesian textiles, the first works from Indonesia acquired into the Museum’s Asian art collection. As Curator Emerita, Baker will remain an advisor on the Museum’s art of Asia collection and exhibition program. PhxArt will launch a national search for its next curator of Asian art.

“On behalf of our staff, volunteers, and, most importantly, our community, we extend our deep gratitude to Dr. Baker for her outstanding service and commitment to leading Phoenix Art Museum’s Asian art department and elevating its collection,” said Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Museum’s Sybil Harrington Director and CEO. “Dr. Baker has made an indelible impact on this institution by curating thought-provoking exhibitions, writing scholarly catalogues, and nurturing donor and community relationships that have contributed to the legacy of Phoenix Art Museum in meaningful ways. We wish her well in her retirement and look forward to working with her as a trusted advisor and Curator Emerita going forward.”

Baker has more than 40 years of experience in the field of Asian art. As the Museum’s curator of Asian art, she oversaw the department’s permanent collection presentations and special exhibitions, acquisitions and donations, and scholarly research. In her role, Baker developed numerous significant exhibitions that examined historical and contemporary art forms from China, Japan, Korea, India, Tibet, and Sri Lanka, among other Asian countries. Highlights include Sacred Word and Image: Five World Religions (2012), Hidden Memories of Love and Death in Chinese Painting: Selections from the Marilyn and Roy Papp Collection (2013), and Quiet Rage, Gentle Wail: Prints and Mask of Japanese Noh (2014). She also served as organizing curator for major exhibitions of Asian art that traveled to Phoenix Art Museum from partner institutions, including Samurai: Armor from the Ann and Gabriel Barbier-Mueller Collection (2017), one of the Museum’s most attended exhibitions in the past decade, and Ai Weiwei: Circle of Animals / Zodiac Heads: Gold (2015). Baker additionally oversaw and contributed to a number of publications, including Legacy of Kings: Art of Sri Lanka (2021), Sikh Formations (2019), and Tea and Immortality: Contemporary Chinese Yixing Teapots from the James T. Bialac Collection (2010).

In addition to advancing scholarly research and directing the Museum’s Asian art exhibition program, Baker played a vital role in ensuring the ongoing vibrancy of the Asian art department at PhxArt by fostering and expanding important donor relationships. In 2007, the Museum received significant support to name the John and Mary Coleman and Griffith and Patricia Way Gallery in the Art of Asia wing, and in 2017, Baker stewarded the gift that led to the establishment of the Museum’s Khanuja Family Sikh Heritage Gallery, only the second gallery in the United States dedicated to rotating exhibitions of Sikh art. In 2018, PhxArt accepted a major gift from the Papp Family Foundation in honor of Marilyn and L. Roy Papp, who were Museum donors, volunteers, and supporters for many decades. The gift of 22 important works of Chinese painting from the prestigious Papp collection was one of the

largest and most significant donations to the Museum’s Asian art collection in the institution’s 60+ year history. Funding additionally enabled the naming of the Marilyn and L. Roy Papp Family Gallery. Gifts from the Papp Family collection will be on view in the Museum’s Art of Asia wing this September.

“Dr. Baker’s outstanding service in stewarding the Asian art collection has made a profound impact on Phoenix Art Museum and its ability to bring historical and contemporary Asian artworks to wider audiences,” said Donald Opatrny, chair of the Museum’s Board of Trustees. “On behalf of the entire Board, I extend a heartfelt thanks to Dr. Baker for her dedication and efforts to bring diverse perspectives and forms of artistic expression to our galleries.”

Following her retirement from PhxArt, Baker will remain an honorary Professor of Art History at Arizona State University, where she serves on the MA thesis and PhD dissertation committees. To honor Baker’s service, the Museum will host a special event this fall.

The Museum will launch a national search for the institution’s next curator of Asian art. The new curator will be responsible for maintaining and growing the Museum’s Asian art collection, developing original scholarship, and spearheading interpretation and programmatic efforts to broaden engagement. The recruitment posting will be available at

The newly installed Asian art galleries showcasing the Museum's collections will open at Phoenix Art Museum on September 9, 2023, in conjunction with the unveiling of the restored immersive installation You Who are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies by Yayoi Kusama.

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