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The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art and the Detroit Institute of Art (DIA) have made an unusual announcement. Nii Quarcoopome, the head of the Department of Africa, Oceania & the Indigenous Americas at the Detroit Institute of Art will also become the curator of African art at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art. Kansas City’s Nelson-Atkins will be purchasing 25% of the curator’s time from the DIA. The Kansas City museum previously worked with Quarcoopome in 2010 on an exhibition he curated, Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500–Present.
According to the Nelson-Atkins press release:
“We are delighted to collaborate with our colleagues at the Detroit Institute of Arts and to share the immense talent of Nii Quarcoopome,” said Julián Zugazagoitia, Director & CEO of the Nelson-Atkins. “He is one of the most respected curators in this field, and we are fortunate to continue our relationship with him.”
Graham W.J. Beal, director of the DIA, explained the partnership to Hyperallergic:
“The director of the Nelson Atkin’s museum, Julián Zugazagoitia asked me if I would be open to the idea of engaging Nii to help with the re-installation of their collection and their collection in general. As Nii has no one single large project on the exhibition calendar we were open to the idea of DIA becoming a contractor.” Graham asserts that the motive was one of cooperation rather than financial as the move would have “no real affect on the budget.”
For DIA, the project is an optimistic one. The director described how the museum has faced several “draconian” budget cuts in recent years. Several of its antiquities departments have only nominal curatorial care. He added that “we would be open to this kind of arrangement in the future.”
This latest move comes at a time when museum austerity measures, like shortened hours and budget cuts, have become commonplace since the 2008 world recession. For smaller institutions with limited funding resource this type of cooperation seems unavoidable. On the bright side, this unorthodox new arrangement may forge interesting new bonds between institutions that may find they have more in common then they previously thought.