In recent years, a number of art museums have explored issues related to race and racism in America today. The 2017 Whitney Biennale controversy is one example; Postponing a Philip Guston retrospective is another. The newest museum to find itself in the midst of a heated debate about race and art is the Indianapolis Museum of Art in Newfields – although the controversy in this case has nothing to do with the art in its galleries.
Instead, the museum came under fire for a job advertisement looking for a new director. As reported by the New York Times, the listing emphasized the need to attract a more diverse group of museum goers while maintaining the museum’s “traditional core white art audience”.
It’s not hard to see why this didn’t go down well – or why the phrase in question was changed to “traditional core art audience”. The museum’s chief executive, Charles L. Venable, said the original version of the sentence was intentional.
“I deeply regret that the choice of language clearly did not help reflect our general intention to build our core art audience by welcoming more people in the door,” he said.
The controversy surrounding the job advertisement has already had a negative impact on the museum’s artistic partnerships. Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon, guest curators of DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural, released a statement resigning from the project.
“We asked Newfields to revisit this exhibition to offer an apology to all artists involved, the opportunity for the 18 visual artists to display their other, personal works for fair compensation, and Newfields’s deliberate strategy of more works of more to show black artists, to record in the long run, “they said in their statement.
As the Times article points out, this is not the first time the museum has been at the center of a racial controversy – leading to a worrying pattern of events.
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