Brooklyn Museum Launches White Male History Month

In an effort to better reflect the changing demographics of its borough, the Brooklyn Museum is launching White Male History Month, a press release announced this morning.

(by Benjamin Sutton for Hyperallergic)
(by Benjamin Sutton for Hyperallergic)

In an effort to better reflect the changing demographics of its borough, the Brooklyn Museum is launching White Male History Month, a press release announced this morning. The new endeavor will begin today and take place throughout the month of April, following on the heels of Black History Month in February and Women’s History Month in March.

“We’ve always made it a priority to mirror the community around us, and it’s time to accept that that community has changed,” outgoing museum director Arnold Lehman said in a statement. “The Brooklyn Museum has long been a leader when it comes to inclusion and diversity, and we intend to stay at the forefront.”

The complete list of White Male History Month programs is still in the works, but highlights announced so far include a special Target First Saturday devoted exclusively to white male performers and presenters that will feature a panel discussion entitled, “Mansplaining and Manspreading: How to Cope with the Backlash.” The museum also plans to hire special docents for the month, who will be on hand to answer any questions visitors might have about what it’s like to be a white male, and launch an Airbnb-type service that will allow white males to get in touch with their roots by reserving short-term stays in the museum’s famous Schenck Houses, 17th- and 18th-century structures built by early male Dutch settlers in New York.

Perhaps most controversially, the White Male History Month program will require deinstalling the museum’s popular current Kehinde Wiley exhibition more than a month early and replace it instead with something called a “rebrospective” — an expansive survey of artwork by white males over the centuries. “We believe this will be the first museum exhibition of its kind in the world,” Managing Curator of Exhibitions Sharon Matt Atkins told Hyperallergic.

“We thought it would be difficult to come up with enough work from our various collections to pull off the show in such a short time,” she added, “but it was remarkably easy.”

There’s no word yet on whether the museum’s upcoming exhibition devoted to FAILE, the white male street art duo, will be moved up to coincide with the rebrospective.

In the wake of this morning’s announcement, Hyperallergic was able to connect with a Brooklyn Museum trustee, himself a white male, who spoke about the new initiative anonymously. He intimated that White Male History Month is not only an attempt to reflect the rapidly shifting demographics of the borough, but also to tap into a potential new donor base. “Like it or not, gentrification is real, and we need to make the best of it,” he said. “The hope is that White Male History Month appeals to the bearded artisanal mayo makers and the cocktail-pounding steak eaters, both of whom seem to be just about everywhere these days. We want to make them feel connected to a place where they may have felt ostracized in the past — let them know we’re more than just our African art collection and our feminist art center.”

The trustee added that the museum has already begun looking ahead to White Male History Month 2016, when it will attempt to pull off a feat similar to the Whitney Museum’s Jeff Koons retrospective, for which the entire building was given over to the work of the white male artist. He wouldn’t say who was being considered, but rumors among staff suggest that Paul McCarthy and Matthew Barney are the frontrunners.

“If we don’t adapt soon,” the trustee concluded, “we’re going to get priced out of Brooklyn.”

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