Karen Smith is a curator and art critic specializing in contemporary art in China since 1979. She has written widely on the subject for numerous journals and exhibition catalogues, and is the author of numerous artist monographs. She has also authored several books on China's contemporary art scene including the series As Seen, begun in 2012, and Nine Lives: The Birth of Avant-Garde Art in New China published in 2008. She is most recently the author of the China section for Taschen's Art Now Volume 4, in 2013.

Her curatorial work includes numerous group and solo exhibitions for China's contemporary artists in China and abroad, such as A Potent Force at Rockbund Art Museum, Shanghai (2013), Fat Art I: Music to my Eyes at Today Art Museum, Beijing (2009), Subtlety at Platform China (2008), The Real Thing at Tate Liverpool, UK (2007) and The Chinese: Photography and Video Art from China at Kunstmuseum Wolfsburg, Germany (2004), as well as solo exhibitions for Liu Xiaodong, Ai Weiwei and Xu Bing in the US and the UK. Karen joined the academic advisory board of OCAT Shenzhen in 2005, and was appointed executive director of OCAT Xi' an in 2012.