Japan Society Announces Dr. Michele Bambling as Director, Japan Society Gallery

Dr. Michele Bambling (photography by: Sebastian Böttcher)

Japan Society announces the appointment of Dr. Michele Bambling, an experienced leader, curator, and scholar of Japanese art who has spearheaded ambitious international cultural projects, as the next Director of Japan Society Gallery. Bambling will join Japan Society on February 1, 2024. 

Bambling brings more than three decades of expertise with Japanese art as well as extensive international curatorial experience to the role. She is currently Visiting Associate Professor of Art History at New York University Abu Dhabi, with a research and teaching focus on Japanese art history and design. Bambling was selected following an extensive search process supported by an external committee. Raised in Tokyo and a fluent speaker of Japanese, her vast leadership, curatorial, research, and personal experience will enable Bambling to strengthen Japan Society Gallery’s mission through innovative exhibitions, new scholarship, and cultural programs celebrating the plurality of Japanese art and culture in the global sphere.

“We are thrilled to appoint Dr. Michele Bambling as our next Director of Japan Society Gallery,” said Joshua W. Walker, President and CEO of Japan Society. “Bambling’s proven track record collaborating with institutions across Asia, the United States, the Middle East, and Europe enables her to deepen our exploration of Japanese art, building on the legacy of founding Gallery director Rand Castile (1971-1985), who helped establish Japan Society Gallery as a preeminent platform for the presentation of the arts of Japan in a dynamic, global context. We also want to thank Tiffany Lambert, Curator of Japan Society Gallery, for her exceptional duty as Interim Director during this period that has set us up for this exciting announcement and investment in our future.”

“The mission of Japan Society is evolving in exciting ways. I’m humbled and thrilled to have the opportunity to work with President Walker and the team to build upon the gallery’s robust history of diverse exhibitions,” said Bambling. “Art and culture are central to Japan’s contributions to the world and to the world’s views of Japan. Future exhibitions will examine and encourage visitors to experience the through-lines between Japanese traditions and contemporary art and design within an increasingly sophisticated global context.” 

Dr. Alexandra Munroe, a previous director of Japan Society Gallery (1998-2005) and current Senior Curator at Large, Global Arts at the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, commented: “It is a joy to welcome Dr. Michele Bambling to the robust museum community advancing Japanese art and culture in the United States. Japan Society Gallery has organized some of the most innovative and influential exhibitions in the recent history of Japanese art in America, and we look forward to Dr. Bambling’s contributions to the art and discourse of our time.” 

In concert with Japan Society, Japan Society Gallery has played a key historical role in international exchange since its founding in 1971, introducing audiences to Japanese cultural traditions as well as modern and contemporary visual art, architecture, and design, often in collaboration with the Agency for Cultural Affairs, Government of Japan as well as leading national and private museums. Significant past exhibitions include YES Yoko Ono (2000-2001), Awakenings: Zen Figure Painting in Medieval Japan (2007), and When Practice Becomes Form: Carpentry Tools from Japan (2021), among many others. In addition to influential exhibitions, publications, and public programs, the institution has supported a number of contemporary artists and cultural producers. Selected notable artists and collectives closely associated with Japan Society and Japan Society Gallery include Yayoi Kusama, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and teamLab. Bambling’s ample experience working across disciplines and geographies will allow her to bring the full diversity of Japanese art and visual expression, past and present, to wider audiences and for future generations. 

Showcasing her breadth of international experience, Bambling has overseen numerous cultural projects at prominent global cultural institutions, including as curator of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) National Pavilion at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition in La Biennale di Venezia (2014-2015). While in the UAE, Bambling also conceived and oversaw an ambitious national art and heritage initiative as Creative Director of ‘Lest We Forget,’ under the auspices of the Salama bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation. She has curated various international exhibitions including working with the Smithsonian Institution, Washington D.C., and The National Portrait Gallery, London. Bambling holds an MA, MPhil, and PhD in Japanese art history from Columbia University. For five years, she served as a Visiting Fellow at Keio University, and was also a Post-Doctorate Fellow at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. 


Since 1971, Japan Society Gallery has been the premier institution in the United States for the display and interpretation of Japanese art and culture in a global context. Through groundbreaking exhibitions and related programs, the Gallery cultivates a broader understanding and appreciation of Japan’s contributions to global artistic heritage; explores the artistic interconnections Japan shares with Asia, the U.S., Latin America, and Europe; and celebrates the diversity of Japanese visual expression from prehistoric times to the present day.