ABOUT
ALEXANDRA

Alexandra Munroe
is an Asia scholar and
museum professional focusing on art,
culture, and institutional
global strategy.

Photo by John Bigelow Taylor

biography

Alexandra Munroe
(Chinese name: 孟璐; Japanese name: アレクサンドラ モンロー)

Alexandra Munroe, Ph.D., is a curator, scholar and writer on Asian art and a leader of global arts strategy for museums. Internationally recognized as among the most influential curators of her generation, she has organized the first U.S. retrospectives of Asian-born artists Yayoi Kusama (1989), Yoko Ono (2001), Cai Guo-Qiang (2008), and Lee Ufan (2011).  Her 1994-95 survey exhibition, Japanese Art After 1945: Scream Against the Sky, is recognized for initiating the academic and curatorial field of postwar Japanese art history in North America.

An authority on modern and contemporary Asian art and transnational art studies, Munroe is Samsung Senior Curator, Asian Art, and Senior Advisor, Global Arts, at the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York, positions created for her since she joined the museum in 2006. Under her leadership, the Guggenheim has expanded its mission to broadening the geographical scope of its programs through the study, acquisition, and exhibition of art from non-western regions.

At the Guggenheim, Munroe serves on the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi’s Curatorial Working Group, which devises and implements the collections programs for the future museum. She also founded and presides over the Guggenheim’s Asian Art Council, a curatorial think tank. 

Munroe’s exhibitions and catalogues have won numerous awards including four prizes for best-show from the International Association of Art Critics (AICA).  Her Guggenheim show exploring the influence of Asian aesthetics and philosophy on American modern art, The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia 1860-1989, won the inaugural NEH Chairman’s Special Award with a grant of one million dollars.  Her shows have been chosen for “Top of the Year” lists by The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune, Artforum, Geijustu Shincho, Hyperallergic, and TimeOut New York, among other publications

A native New Yorker, Munroe was raised in Mexico and Japan. She completed freshman and sophomore years at Brown University, Providence, RI and received her Bachelor of Arts degree in Japanese Language and Culture from Sophia University, Tokyo. During her college years in Japan, she was a resident lay disciple at Yōtokuin, a subtemple of Daitokuji, a 14th-century Rinzai Zen monastery in Kyoto.

Returning to New York in 1982, Munroe joined Japan Society, an American organization dedicated to cultural and policy exchange between Japan and the U.S. During her seven-year tenure at Japan Society Gallery, she helped organize exhibitions of contemporary Japanese artists and architects including Tadao Ando, Arata Isozaki, Toyoo Ito, Ushio Shinohara and Hiroshi Sugimoto. 

In the following years, she was an independent curator working with museums in the United States and Japan, including the Yokohama Museum of Art and the Center for International Contemporary Art (CICA), New York. The exhibitions she organized, on postwar Japanese art, Yayoi Kusama and Chinese ink painter Liu Dan, among others, brought to the fore on the international stage previously under examined Asian contributions to global visual culture.

In 1998, Munroe was appointed Director of Japan Society Gallery. She led the museum’s  expansion of contemporary arts programs through such award-winning exhibitions as Little Boy: The Arts of Japan’s Exploding Subcultures (2005), curated by Takashi Murakami, and organized the society’s first inter-Asia exhibition, Transmitting the Forms of Divinity: Early Buddhist Art from Korea and Japan

Munroe earned a masters degree in art history at the Institute of Fine Arts, New York University and was awarded a Ph.D. in history from New York University, with a thesis on postwar Japanese art and politics.

Munroe is a trustee of the Aspen Music Festival and School; Institute of Fine Arts, New York University; Intelligence Squared U.S.; Longhouse Reserve; PEN America Center; the Ullens Center for Contemporary Art, Beijing; and the US-Japan Foundation. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and is a former member of the Association of American Museum Directors (AAMD).

She serves on the advisory boards of several organizations, including Asia Art Archive, Hong Kong, Jnanapravaha Mumbai, LEAP Magazine, Beijing, Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai; and sits on the Visiting Committee of the Thomas J. Watson Library at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.  In April 2011, she spearheaded the Guggenheim’s international museums petition calling for the release of Chinese dissident artist Ai Weiwei.  With broad support from ICOM, the American Association of Museum Directors (AAMD) and PEN America, the petition garnered over 145,000 signatures from around the world on the activist online site change.org. 

Munroe has lectured widely at museums and academic conferences, including appearances at Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Columbia universities; School of Oriental Studies, London University; the Central Academy of Fine Arts (CAFA), Beijing; and the International Research Center for Japanese Studies, one of Japan’s National Institutes for the Humanities.

Munroe is married to financier and philanthropist Robert Rosenkranz and serves with him on the board of the Rosenkranz Foundation. In 2005, they cofounded Intelligence Squared U.S., a public policy debate forum carried on hundreds of NPR radio stations and heard by millions on NPR and iTunes podcasts. 

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Public Speaking and Lectures

Fluent in Japanese, Alexandra lectures frequently on Asian art in Europe, North America, and East Asia.

Intelligence Squared U.S.

As cofounder of Intelligence Squared U.S., Alexandra has helped create the foremost debate series driven by facts and informed by reasoned analysis.

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Alexandra_MunroeABOUT ALEXANDRA MUNROE