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Kaywin Feldman, the director of the National Gallery of Art (image courtesy National Gallery of Art, Washington)

Last week, the New York Times reported that the National Gallery of Art’s Philip Guston retrospective, expected to travel to the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Tate Modern in London, and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, would be delayed by four years. The reasons are many, including the limited demographics of those who worked on an exhibition that is very much about race, as well as the current cultural climate. The decision has caused reactions of indignation and anger in some art circles, causing others to be perplexed over what seems like an overreaction to the delay of an exhibition by a very well-known artist.

In this episode, the director of the National Gallery, Kaywin Feldman, shares her thoughts on the decision, why it was important, and what the National Gallery of Art will do now.

The music featured in this episode is the track “California Life” by Radiochaser.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

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10 Comments

  1. As an old white guy, I generally avoid most conversations about culture. F–k, I avoid most conversations entirely, lest I trigger some unanticipated response. Is that what wokers intend to have happen? Shouldn’t we all try to cut each other some slack as we take on these historic issues? What has happened to our tools for persuasion & education?

  2. Ignoring Jewishness as part of this conversation and its relationship to Gustons work in the context of discrimination in his time is a huge part of the problem with the postponement of the show and every part of this conversation.

      1. There are articles in the catalogue written by Black scholars and artists, so Black perspectives are already part of the exhibition.

      2. I’m not talking about the catalogue or the research for the show. I’m talking about this conversation between you and the director. If it were approached with the context in mind this would be a totally different conversation and one that addresses the nuance that comes with the history of minorities in this country, the evolution of whiteness, and dialogue between the Black community and the Jewish community about what this all means in terms of that context-Guston to present. To not touch on this by you or the director, shows a lack of depth as to the understanding of how the show, even in the tweaking over its postponement, could be most impactful. I’m proud to sign my name to the Brooklyn Rail petition which is full of people of all backgrounds who actually get it.

        1. What I find most disturbing is that the arbiters of culture who supposedly understand the core concepts in an artist’s work when they choose to mount an exhibition of this importance chose to take such a misguided position. Guston’s work is about the evil within…is that not exactly what we are asked to confront at this moment through Black Lives Matter, Systemic Racism and a multitude of internalized racist beliefs and actions that find expression in our world today. It is such a perfect moment for Guston…particularly as mounted by ‘white’ curators…who better?! Cancellation is clear evidence that the museum directors responsible are not willing to stand with Guston and embrace their own culpability.

  3. i am a bit surprised by at least part of the answer Feldman provides. I don’t see why the mentionned curators of color should only work in exhibits that concern thematically questions of color – (sorry but it sounds as if they had to be there to justify the shows ???).
    On the contrary, it really seems important that curators of color become permanent members of the curating staff in equal measure with white curators and that they work for all the museum’s exhibits, regardless of the topic.
    Restructuring the museum’s structure of hiring and of distributing power is the real problem that should be adressed rather than this kind of “photogenic” solutions that change nothing for the future of the institution.

  4. I still haven’t heard anyone ask the question I’m most concerned about: what will these galleries put on instead of the Guston exhibition? I agree with all the political reasons the curators gave, but that doesn’t fill the looming gap in their calendars. As a Londoner I’ve seen too many exhibitions cancelled in the last year, Guston at Tate was one of the few upcoming highlights.

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