Placed Leaders

Kelly Baum

John and Mary Pappajohn Director

Des Moines Art Center

We partnered with the Des Moines Art Center, an AAM-accredited institution, with a collection of art from the 19th century to the present, with a major emphasis on contemporary art. The collection is housed in three major buildings, each designed by a renowned architect—Eliel Saarinen, I. M. Pei and Richard Meier.

Our work resulted in Dr. Kelly Baum as the museum’s next John and Mary Pappajohn Director, succeeding a leader of 25 years.

In this role, Dr. Baum leads the Art Center in furthering its mission to provide opportunities for transformational art experiences through its collections, exhibitions, and educational programming. Dr. Baum comes to Des Moines from The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York where she has served in multiple roles since 2015, most recently as the Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Curator of Contemporary Art.

With a focus on art, education, and scholarship, Dr. Baum has worked as a curator of modern and contemporary art for 23 years, holding positions at four civic and university art museums: The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met), Princeton University of Art Museum, the Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin, and the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston.

Over the course of her career, Baum has curated or co-curated almost thirty exhibitions – twelve of them for The Met, including the museum’s first commission for its historic façade, which featured Wangechi Mutu; the well-received retrospective “Alice Neel: People Come First;” and a major reassessment of postwar art, “Delirious: Art at the Limits of Reason, 1950-1980.” She has long embraced her role as an educator, helping pave the way for the next generation of curators and art historians through mentorship and teaching.

Dr. Baum’s experience includes leading new initiatives and strategic planning, as evidenced by the instrumental role she played in conceptualizing a new wing for modern and contemporary art at The Met and in building and diversifying the collections at both The Met and the Princeton University Art Museum, greatly expanding their representation of women artists and artists of color.

Dr. Baum earned both her MA and PhD in Art History from the University of Delaware. She was a Class of 2018 Fellow at the Center for Curatorial Leadership.