John Caldwell (1941-1993) was a curator and art critic in New York, NY, Pittsburg, PA, and San Francisco, CA. He was born on November 16, 1941 in Nashville, Tennessee. He received a bachelor's degree in modern French history from Harvard University in 1963 and his master's degree in art history from Hunter College, New York, NY, in 1973. While studying at Hunter, Caldwell also served as associate editor at the New-York Historical Society (1967-1973). From 1973 to 1976, Caldwell pursued a doctorate in eighteenth and nineteenth century American art history at Yale University and worked as an assistant to the curator of American art at the Yale University Art Gallery in New Haven, CT.
In 1975, Caldwell won an Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship with the Metropolitan Museum of Art; in 1977, he was appointed assistant curator of American art at the museum. From 1980 to 1984, Caldwell served as art critic for the suburban weekly sections of the New York Times. During this period, Caldwell's interest in contemporary art grew. In 1984, Caldwell accepted a position as adjunct curator of contemporary art at the Carnegie Museum of Art in Pittsburgh, PA. A year later he was promoted to curator of contemporary art at the museum, a position that he held until 1989. Both Caldwell and John R. Lane, the director of the Carnegie Museum of Art, infused new energy into the 1985 Carnegie International, a triennial exhibition, that brought together many contemporary American and European works of art. Caldwell also spearheaded the 1988 Carnegie International and was the only curator in the history of the museum to have organized two consecutive Internationals. During his tenure at the Carnegie Museum of Art, Caldwell organized solo exhibitions on artists that included Susan Rothenberg (1984), Sean Scully (1985), and Richard Deacon (1988).
In 1989, two years after John R. Lane was appointed director of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, Caldwell joined his former colleague and served as the first curator of painting and sculpture for the museum. At SFMoMA, Caldwell organized retrospective exhibitions on artists that included Sigmar Polke (1990-91), Luciano Fabro (1992), and Jeff Koons (1992-1993). He also curated one person shows of new works by artists that included Matthew Barney (1991), Sherrie Levine (1991), and Susana Solana (1991).
Caldwell died in 1993 at the age of 51 in Miami Beach, Florida.