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Following intense backlash from the art world, a postponed Philip Guston retrospective organized by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC will begin in 2022 instead of 2024, the New York Times reported today, October 28.
The National Gallery of Art has not immediately responded to Hyperallergic’s request for comment.
Last month, the four museums sponsoring the exhibition — National Gallery of Art; Tate Modern in London; the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston — announced that they would postpone the exhibition to 2024, citing the need to better contextualize Ku Klux Klan imagery in Guston’s work against the backdrop of historic racial justice protests across the country. The museums also acknowledged the need to include “additional perspectives and voices” in shaping the exhibition, which was organized by a predominantly-white team of curators.
“We are postponing the exhibition until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston’s work can be more clearly interpreted,” a statement by the four museums said in September.
“It felt like a tough time in America to do this exhibition, particularly at this moment,” said National Gallery Director Kaywin Feldman in an interview with Hyperallergic earlier this month. “In today’s America, because Guston appropriated images of Black trauma, the show needs to be about more than Guston.” Feldman added that the exhibition could be held before 2024, at a time “past COVID.”
The decision was met with fierce condemnation by many art world figures. Over 2,600 artists, curators, and critics signed an open letter, published by the Brooklyn Rail on September 30, calling on the four museums to reverse their decision. The letter accused the institutions of “fear[ing] controversy” and “lack[ing] faith in the intelligence of their audience.”
A spokesperson for the National Gallery told the Times that the decision to advance the exhibition to 2022 was not in response to the backlash, adding that 2024 was initially chosen as a realistic post-pandemic time frame.