White Art Curators in Black Spaces

    A white curator is designing the Hip-Hop exhibit at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture. The appointment is met with criticism for not selecting a black curator to manage the operation. Museums tend to respond by pointing to a lack of qualified Black curators.

    The solution to the problem is to encourage blacks in the arts to seek positions that lead to being able to be a curator. One major limitation in the arts appears to be unpaid internships in museums that wind up excluding ethnic minorities from getting training that allows them to gain experience. Museums are going to have to develop training programs that create a more diverse population.



    Black Activists Called Out for Loyalty to White Woman Appointed to Curate Hip-Hop Exhibit at African-American Museum @ Atlanta Black Star, Sept. 24

    If the goal of museum show is to have the sub-culture appreciated by those outside their culture, that is, to have it appreciated by a bigger audience, the culture should be happy when there are those outside the culture have the interest and qualifications to be a curator. It's an indication interest has grown outside the culture.

    If the sub-culture wants to remain of interest to just a minority, it will only accept that the indigenous can interpret it. I.E. only those with Eskimo blood should be allowed to curate exhibitions of Eskimo art as only Eskimos are expected to be interested in it.

    Yes, I am saying that "the black community", whatever that is, should be happy that whites are beginning to get scholarly degrees in the history of Afro-American art, not just blacks.

    Likewise, I think white Europeans should be happy that Beyonce and JayZ curated an Afro-American interpretation of the classical western art at the Louvre, growing the audience for it:



    The status quo will not hold. Museums will have to open up their fields to a more diverse group for training. That is the bottom line.

    The Mellon Foundation knows that change has to come


    Museums realize the need to change




    The discussion is moving on. There will be less outrage about whites curating black art when the field has more black curators. 

    Edit to add: 

    There used to be discussion about the lack of black head coaches in the NFL. There was protest. Art Rooney of the Pittsburgh Steelers was instrumental in getting the NFL to institute a rule that every team searching for a new head coach had to interview an ethnic minority candidate. Black coaches were hired and black coaches were successful. Now it is common to see black NFL head coaches. Art curation will go through a similar process.


    It's not holding at all, it's changing very rapidly. Your own links above are examples, I could give you a hundred more. You have no idea of how you and those on twitter are complaining about something that is over, much ado about the past, not the present. The major museum world is not Trump world, it is aggressively pushing gender and racial parity in hiring, content and collections, to a fault, some on "white twitter" might argue. If only there were enough majors of distinction with colored skin, they could all have jobs. How fast can you get a master's in museum practice? Get to it, if you are black and you have good grades, you have more than one job to pick from.

    AA. You don’t get to say when it’s over. I don’t get to say when it’s over. When there are enough faces seen as museum curators, it will be over. The discussion about black NFL head coaches died down for the most part. Now the discussion has removed to minorities in the team offices in the NFL.

    Unpaid internships continue to be a problem. Museums did not suddenly wake up. Museums faced pressure from identity politics groups.

    I couldn't afford an unpaid internship either and I resented those who could. I get that. It is a class problem, not race. I waitressed while others got a foot into the door of the museum world. Still I almost got a job out after a masters as a curator of a small house museum in New Orleans. Ended up in the art market instead after begging for a job for two years at the local auction house while waitressing and working lots of other part time jobs. I started as an appraisal typist (with a master's degree) at minimum wage to learn the lingo and worked other jobs to pay the rent.  In the end: glad I didn't go into the museum world, curators actually don't get to do that much with art (and these days, they are expected to earn their keep, get grants, get donors) registrars have a bit more, but nothing like working in an auction house.

    I am not going to argue with you on anything else here, I'm done. Thought some might like to hear my quick opinion. The reason I post so much political news here is that I am looking at ten times more art world news every day and run across the political news at the same time. I am not going to get into writing an article proving the opinion I just shared precisely because if I did so I would do it under my real name and be paid for it.

    Things change. The push for paid internships will benefit everyone.

    Get a clue, most art museums are consistently broke! They need unpaid help. Furthermore they don't owe anybody anything if they don't get any tax money. When you are a curator or director, you must earn your keep by bringing in money, that is the work they mostly do these days, that's one way times have changed. If you think of a show to curate, you better have a funding source in mind and go out and get it yourself! The people that bring in the most money get paid the most. Grant writing skill is a most important part of curatorial work.

    Here's the latest: the Met Museum is having trouble affording the Breuer building they bought from the Whitney. They are trying to sell it to the Frick Museum, a small museum with a small staff, one of the rare few well-endowed, by the tobacco heiress Doris Duke. Yes, the supposedly hugely rich Metropolitan Museum is having trouble balancing the budget. Smaller museums need volunteer help all the more, they don't have wealthy donors looking to pay a pretty penny to be on the board or have their name on the wall to keep the lights on.

    To do it your way, you have to go to a country that supports art museums with tax money. Here they depend upon wealthy parents offering their children up to work for no pay or low pay.

    Despite all this, they are desperate to find people of color with the proper educational background and success at same, that is where they will spend some funds. It is a time of incredible opportunity for people of color in the museum world, like has never happened before and may not ever happen again. Everyone else will have to work for free, including the rich kids.

    From the NYT article

    Now, eager to attract a broader cross-section of visitors at a time when the country’s demographics are changing — and, in New York, facing an ultimatum linking city funding to inclusion plans — a growing number of museums are addressing diversity with new urgency. From the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago to the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (Lacma), they are hiring more minority staff members, offering paid internships and teaming with foundations and universities that fund curatorial jobs, to ensure that the next generation of leaders of color enter the pipeline.

    Museums are finding a way to increase diversity just like the NFL and other businesses are working towards diversity. The effort is a work in progress. Demographics are changing. The way museums attract visitors and staff will have to change as well.

    At least the Southern Hip-Hop Museum in Atlanta will have a Black curator. Rapper T.I. will curate the museum.


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