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Ho, Melissa

Curator of Twentieth-Century Art

Background And Education

Professional Biography

  • Melissa Ho is the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s curator of 20th-century art; she joined the museum’s staff in September 2016. She is responsible for research, acquisitions and exhibitions related to the museum’s collections, focusing on art made since 1945. Ho is particularly concerned with studying the connections between artistic practice and social and historical conditions. She is also interested in debates surrounding abstraction, conceptualism and experimental art. Her current project is “Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975,” an exhibition scheduled to open at the museum in 2019.

    Ho was a curator from 2011 to 2016 at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, where she organized “Shirin Neshat: Facing History” (2015) with Melissa Chiu; “Salvatore Scarpitta: Traveler” (2014); and “Barbara Kruger: Belief+Doubt” (2012). She also co-curated, with Evelyn Hankins, a re-installation of the museum’s collection, “At the Hub of Things” (2014).

    Ho began as an artist, working primarily in collage and installation. She earned a bachelor’s degree in studio art and art history from Princeton University and a master’s degree in art history from the University of Pennsylvania; her thesis examined the performative practice of photographer Tseng Kwong Chi.

Research And Grants


Selected Publications

  • Book

    • Ho, Melissa. 2019. Artists Respond: American Art and the Vietnam War, 1965-1975 [Exhibition catalog] Washington, DC: Smithsonian American Art Museum, in association with Princeton University. 2019
    • Chiu, Melissa, Ho, Melissa, Madoff, Steven Henry, and Afkhami, Mahnaz. 2015. Shirin Neshat: Facing History. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press. 2015
  • Chapter

    • Ho, Melissa. 2023. "Ambiguous Ambassador." In Smithsonian Asian Pacific American History, Art, and Culture in 101 Objects. Gonzalves, Theodore S., editor. Washington, DC. 2023
    • Ho, Melissa. 2023. "New Acquisitions: Notes from an Expanding Field." In Pictures of Belonging: Miki Hayakawa, Hisako Hibi, and Miné Okubo. Wang, ShiPu, editor. 162–167. Los Angeles, California: Japanese American National Museum in association with University of California Press. 2023
    • Ho, Melissa. 2023. "Yayoi Kusama's Forlorn Spot." In Smithsonian Asian Pacific American History, Art, and Culture in 101 Objects. Gonzalves, Theodore S., editor. 78–79. Washington, DC: Smithsonian Books. 2023
    • Nikolaus, Sydney, Manthey, Gwen, Ho, Melissa, and Kerr, Amber. 2021. "Composing Color: The Materials and Techniques of Alma Woodsey Thomas." In Alma W. Thomas: Everything Is Beautiful. Feman, Seth and Walz, Jonathan Frederick, editors. 93–107. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. 2021
    • Ho, Melissa. 2017. "Living in World Time." In World Time Clock. Pousttchi, Bettina, editor. 31–37. Washington: Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. 2017