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Amid Controversy, Nancy Spector Steps Down From the Guggenheim Museum

News of her resignation was accompanied by a report by the museum investigating accusations of racism made by curator Chaédria LaBouvier.

Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation Artistic Director and David Stockman Chief Curator Nancy Spector has stepped down. (photo by David Heald, copyright Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation)

Nancy Spector, the Artistic Director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator of the Guggenheim Foundation, has stepped down from her post after more than three decades at the institution. According to a press release provided by the museum, Spector is leaving to “pursue other curatorial endeavors and to finish her doctoral dissertation.”

The resignation comes in the wake of mounting pressure from a group of current and former workers known as A Better Guggenheim, which recently called for the removal of the museum’s top three executives — Spector; Director Richard Armstrong; and Senior Deputy Director and Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Duggal.

Earlier this summer, the group released a letter to the board demanding concrete steps to “dismantle the systemic racism” at the museum. The letter centered the experience of Chaédria LaBouvier, who curated the 2019 exhibition Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story. LaBouvier has accused Spector of excluding her from key aspects of the exhibition planning and taking credit for her work. “Working at the Guggenheim w/ Nancy Spector & the leadership was the most racist professional experience of my life,” she said in a tweet.

Along with the release detailing Spector’s resignation, the Guggenheim has shared a statement on the results of an independent investigation, which began in June 2020, into LaBouvier’s allegations.

“After conducting a comprehensive investigation, including by reviewing more than 15,000 documents and conducting a broad range of interviews with current and former Guggenheim employees across many departments and others affiliated with the institution, the investigators have concluded there is no evidence that Ms. LaBouvier was subject to adverse treatment on the basis of her race,” the statement reads.

Nevertheless, the museum continues, “the Board recognizes the museum’s lack of diversity in staff, programming and outreach remains an urgent issue, and we continue to move forward expeditiously with our Diversity, Equity, Access and Inclusion Action Plan to help ensure our institution becomes a more equitable place.”

In response to Hyperallergic’s request for comment, A Better Guggenheim said, “The Guggenheim’s aversion to transparency extended to this investigation. The investigative approach was not shared with employees, and we are aware of staff who bore witness to the harm museum leadership inflicted on LaBouvier who were not contacted by investigators.”

“It is clear the investigation was not as thorough as this matter required,” the group added.

Spector has served at the Guggenheim for more than a combined 34 years, with a brief stint as the Brooklyn Museum’s Deputy Director and Chief Curator in 2016.

“As I pursue new challenges, including completing my doctoral dissertation, I am humbled by the accolades I have received from colleagues around the globe,” Spector said in the museum’s release. “I am confident that the Guggenheim is stronger than ever before, and incredibly well-positioned to emerge successfully from the challenges presented by 2020.”

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