In 1988 Penelope Curtis joined the new Tate Gallery in Liverpool as Exhibitions Curator. In 1994 she moved to the Henry Moore Institute in Leeds, where as curator, she was responsible for a programme of historical and contemporary sculpture exhibitions, collections building in sculpture and archives, and research activity including events, fellowships and publications. In 2010 she took up the role of Director at Tate Britain, before leaving in 2015 to move to the prestigious Calouste Gulbenkian museum in Lisbon.
She has written widely on 20th-century British sculpture, on European art and architecture of the inter-war years, and on many contemporary sculptors including Thomas Schütte, Gerard Byrne and Isa Genzken. She is author of Sculpture 1900-1945: After Rodin (OUP, 1999) and Patio and Pavilion: The place of sculpture in Modern Architecture (Ridinghouse, 2007).