In Response to Mississippi’s Anti-LGBTQ Bill, Neuberger Museum Director Will Not Attend Opening

A view of the Neuberger collection at the Neuberger Museum of Art in 2014. (photo courtesy the museum)
A view of the Neuberger collection at the Neuberger Museum of Art in 2014 (photo by Lynda Curtis, courtesy the museum)

Today, the Neuberger Museum of Art announced that because of the passage of a new anti-LGBTQ bill in Mississippi, its director, Dr. Tracy Fitzpatrick, and the president of Purchase College, SUNY, Thomas J. Schwarz, will not attend the opening of When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection at the Mississippi Museum of Art on April 9.

The news comes after Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1523, known as “The Religious Liberty Accommodations Act,” into law today. The bill allows individuals, religious organizations, and private associations to use religion to discriminate against LGBTQ people at work, school, and in their communities. Following Kansas and North Carolina, Mississippi is the third US state to recently sign into law an explicitly anti-LGBTQ bill.

When Modern Was Contemporary is a touring exhibition that features 52 artists from the university museum’s prominent collection of art from the United States. It includes works by Jackson Pollock, Marsden Hartley, Jacob Lawrence, Georgia O’Keeffe, Mark Rothko, and many others.

In its fight against anti-LGBTQ laws, the Neuberger Museum said that many of the programs associated with its current Louise Fishman retrospective will focus on LGBTQ issues.

Fitzpatrick and Schwarz issued the following statement regarding their decision:

Dr. Tracy Fitzpatrick: At the Neuberger Museum of Art, we are delighted that the residents of Mississippi will be afforded the extraordinary opportunity to view works by some of America’s most important 20th century artists from our collection in When Modern Was Contemporary: Selections from the Roy R. Neuberger Collection. This exhibition reflects the ways in which our founding patron, Roy R. Neuberger, supported living artists irrespective of their backgrounds and beliefs, and valued open dialogue through a mix of ideas – even those that were controversial and unpopular, an approach that is in opposition to Mississippi’s new, sweeping, discriminatory anti-gay and transgender legislation.

As an academic art museum our role is to educate diverse audiences in and through the visual arts by presenting a variety of media and cultural perspectives, and works by artists from diverse backgrounds and convictions. While I hope that the presence of the works by such a diverse group of artists in When Modern Was Contemporary will help create dialogue around these issues, in view of Mississippi’s new discriminatory law it is with great regret that I must decline the Mississippi Museum of Art’s kind invitation to celebrate with them on the occasion of the opening of the Neuberger exhibition.

In keeping with its values, the Neuberger Museum hopes that its newly opened exhibition, Louise Fishman: A Retrospective, will also contribute to this dialogue in a meaningful way. The exhibition is the first career survey of this important American artist who has long fought for the meaningful recognition that we believe has eluded her and many women artists because of sexism and anti-gay bias. Hopefully, both the Louise Fishman exhibition and When Modern Was Contemporary will stimulate comment and thoughtful dialogue as many in the nation struggle to achieve a greater climate of acceptance and equality. Many of the programs associated with the Louise Fishman exhibition will focus on LGBTQ issues.

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