Meet The Fine Art Museums Of San Francisco’s Curator Of African Art


natasha becker portrait

Photo Courtesy Elisabeth Smolarz

In 2020, the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco hired Natasha Becker as its first dedicated, full-time curator of African art. The South African native, who has spearheaded numerous exhibitions and international initiatives, brings to the role substantial knowledge of both art history and African history. Luxe sat down with Becker to learn more about her vision moving forward

What excites you about your role at the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco?

One of the biggest transformations in the past 15–20 years in the field is the growth of contemporary African art. Essentially, I was hired to deepen visitors’ knowledge of and connection with the historical collection. But I proposed we bring contemporary artists into the mix. It was an exciting challenge to bring new critical interpretations to the historical while also responding to the current moment.

Is there a contemporary artist you’re especially enthused about showcasing?

Lhola Amira [on exhibit at the de Young Museum through December] is a South African artist making an impact by showing that we are all connected historically—Africans, African Americans and descendants of Africans; Native American and Indigenous people; and descendants of European settlers. By drawing on all these cultural stands, they are inviting everyone into their work of cultural healing.

Why should someone explore African art?

Africa is considered the birthplace of modern humanity. It is the site upon which all our ancestors first expressed abstract thoughts in visual terms. Because of the continent’s extraordinary diversity and artistic heritage, it takes time to explore. Africa cannot be understood in one exhibition. Unpacking that will be exciting to someone who’s not familiar with it.

A portrait of a woman holding a candle by Lhola Amira

“Irmandade: The Shape of Water in Pindorama” by Lhola Amira. (Photo Courtesy SMAC Gallery © Lhola Amira