Statement from the Dallas Museum of Art on the Death of John Lunsford, Legendary and Longtime Curator for Nearly Three Decades

– Dallas Native Remained Passionate About Serving His City’s Museum –

Dallas, TX – July 2, 2019 –John Lunsford, a curator emeritus of the Dallas Museum of Art, was instrumental in transforming the DMA into the ambitious and significant museum it is today. His remarkable 28-year career at the Museum started at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts in 1958, where, as an associate curator, his interests were African and Pacific art. In 1970 he was promoted to full curator, in charge of all collections except contemporary art. Between June and December 1973, he stepped into the role of Interim Director and was then appointed Senior Curator of Non-Western Art in 1979.

While at the DMA, Lunsford’s primary areas of responsibility were pre-Columbian, African, Oceanic, Island Indonesian, and Native American art. The Museum’s pre-Columbian collection grew from approximately 50 works to well over 3,000, while the African collection grew from zero to over 400.

Major exhibitions for which he was the curator and catalogue author include The Arts of Man, 1962; Indian Arts of the Americas, 1963; The M. P. Potamkin Collection, 1970; Arts of Oceania, 1970; The Romantic Vision of America, 1971; and African Art from Dallas Collections, 1972.

Lunsford had a major role in the acquisition of the Clark and Francine Stillman Collection of Congo Sculpture, 1969; the Gustave and Franyo Schindler Collection of African Sculpture, 1974; and the John and Nora Wise Collection of Pre-Columbian Art, 1976; and the founding of the Indonesian collection.

John Lunsford was born on April 15, 1933, in Dallas, Texas. As a child, he took Museum School classes, which he continued to do on and off until 1958 as a college graduate. He received a BA in English Literature from Harvard in 1954 and completed an MA from the Graduate School of Art History and Archaeology at Columbia University in 1968. After Lunsford served in the US Army from 1955 to 1957, DMFA Director Jerry Bywaters offered him his first museum job in 1958.

Following his time here, he remained a beloved friend to the DMA while a professor at Southern Methodist University and later the Director of the Meadows Museum. In addition to frequently attending and presenting talks in the DMA’s galleries, Lunsford was a generous donor of artworks to the African and Pacific collections and a contributor to the Dallas Museum of Art 100 Years publication.

“John was such an intelligent and sweet person who did so much for this institution,” said Dr. Anne Bromberg, The Cecil and Ida Green Curator of Ancient and Asian Art at the Dallas Museum of Art, where she has served for 43 years. “Most significantly, because he started at the Museum in the days when it did not have a large collection of art, he spent his career working to expand our global collections, which turned the DMA into the major museum it is today.”

About the Dallas Museum of Art
Established in 1903, the Dallas Museum of Art (DMA) is among the 10 largest art museums in the country and is distinguished by its commitment to research, innovation, and public engagement. At the heart of the Museum and its programs is its global collection, which encompasses more than 24,000 works and spans 5,000 years of history, representing a full range of world cultures. Located in the nation’s largest arts district, the Museum acts as a catalyst for community creativity, engaging people of all ages and backgrounds with a diverse spectrum of programming, from exhibitions and lectures to concerts, literary events, and dramatic and dance presentations. Since the Museum’s return to free general admission in 2013, the DMA has welcomed more than 4 million visitors, including more than 800,000 in 2018. For more information, visit

The Dallas Museum of Art is supported, in part, by the generosity of DMA Members and donors, the citizens of Dallas through the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs, and the Texas Commission on the Arts.


For more information, please contact:
Jill Bernstein