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Panel Discussion: ‘Who’s Not in the Picture?’

Panel Discussion: ‘Who’s Not in the Picture?’


– I’m Aimee Ng, for those
of you who have not heard me drone on and on about Moroni already over the last four months, Associate Curator here at the The Frick and co-curator of “Moroni: The Riches of Renaissance Portraiture.” That’s the exhibition that
inspired today’s event and which sadly closes today. You will have about
another hour and a half after the end of this
program to visit the show before the museum closes tonight. It’s a pleasure to welcome
you all to the Frick. And I’d like to acknowledge
this place, this site, the former home of Henry
Clay Frick and his family. It’s a place of beauty, of
great privilege and complexity. There are many histories
here which we can’t see today and I want to acknowledge some of these. I acknowledge this land of the
Lenape and Wappinger people, the Lenox Library that once stood here, the workers who built this building, and the custodians of this collection: The curators of the
Frick, past and present, among which, I acknowledge, I am the first who is not of European descent. The Moroni show is about one Italian Renaissance artist, but I hope that the objects in the show have allowed our visitors a
glimpse into his wider world, of who is not depicted in his portraits, but whose stories are in
the galleries with us. Already Moroni’s famous “Tailor” has been seen to suggest
that Moroni’s portraiture was more inclusive socioeconomically, than was conventional
in Renaissance Italy. So that a working tailor
could afford to be painted and with the dignity Moroni gives to his aristocrats and nobles. The fragment of 16th-century brocade, I show you on the right, shown with Moroni’s
“Portrait of a Young Woman.” Its gold and silver thread, each strand comprising a silk thread with a thin strip of gold or silver, wound by hand around it. And that’s a microscopic
view of that textile. An incredible amount of labor. This was made by unnamed
persons who worked, who devoted enormous time and skill to produce the luxurious,
labor intensive textiles that we see in so many
Renaissance portraits. This Spanish pendant cross
of emeralds and pearls, on the far right, shown with
Moroni’s “Isotta Brembati.” And in the middle is a
detail of the similar pendant worn around her neck. The Spanish pendant cross
tells the story of 1557, just after Moroni probably
painted the portrait, when Spain colonized Colombia and with it, the rich emerald
mines and its miners at Muzo. From this point, Spain began
importing huge quantities of Colombian emeralds
into Europe and Asia. This had an effect on
European jewelry design and needless to say, on Colombia. The issue of difference,
of diversity of people, comes up in this first edition of Saint Ignatius of Loyola’s “Spiritual Exercises” of 1541. That’s shown with the
so-called, “Sacred Portraits” in the gallery. We display it open to the page in which Loyola tells his reader to think about people of
color and of other cultures. To think of everyone in the world, some white, some black, some people who dress in various ways and act in different ways, and to imagine that everyone,
together, is going to hell. The exercise of course is
for the European reader to understand that he or
she can save his or her soul through devotion to Christianity, which has its own complicated history. Lastly, I’m showing you on the right, a page from a pattern book in the show, an acknowledgement of women’s work. The needlework on the
collars and cuffs of men, like in this portrait, may
have been made by women, using books like these, which
were published for women, encouraging them to produce
this kind of needlework in the home as a pursuit
of both fashion and virtue. Indeed “The Riches of
Renaissance Portraiture” is about much more than the
sitters we see in the paintings. Today’s panel is about
questions of who is represented in portraiture and art, and how to tell the stories
of the unrepresented. And I’m honored to welcome this impressive group of panelists who will come up individually
to introduce themselves and their work. They’re given five minutes each and I know I’m already over. Before they do, it’s my
show, I think I can do this, a few words about our moderator, Lucy Lang, Executive Director of the Institute for
Innovation in Prosecution. Lucy is a tireless advocate, inspiring teacher, innovative
leader and scholar, among many other roles
and accomplishments. She previously served as an
Assistant District Attorney in Manhattan for 12 years,
where she investigated and prosecuted violent
street crime and homicides. Yes, do not mess with Lucy. (audience laughing) And most recently served as Special Counsel for Policy and Projects and Executive Director of
the Manhattan D.A. Academy, a resource for professionals
working at the intersection of law and public policy. Her work is largely focused on giving voice to marginalized
groups in policy making, particularly in the
criminal justice system. We are so honored that she
will moderate our panel today, as I am, to welcome our
panelists to the podium. I’ll just ask you to,
please, silence your phones. Thank you very much. (audience applauding) – Good afternoon everyone. I’m Jessica Bell Brown. I’m a writer and independent
curator based here in New York. And I just wanna ask a quick
question before I begin. I’m speaking about a project I did at Gracie Mansion recently
and I just wanted to ask, how many of you have been
to Gracie Mansion before? Okay, great. Thank you. So I wanna talk today about
an exhibition I curated at the invitation of
First Lady Chirlane McCray called “She Persists: A Century
of Women Artists in New York. Having moved into the residence in 2014, only to find that what was on the walls was not necessarily reflective of the city’s first interracial family of Italian and Asian descent. And arguably not a
reflection of the diversity of New Yorkers, of all walks of life. Ms. McCray knew she
wanted to make a change and breathe new life into the
walls, and enlisted my help. The show marked the first time
in Gracie’s 220 year history that the entirety of the stately rooms of the mayoral residence,
were filled with artworks exclusively made by women. It’s also the most extensive display of modern and contemporary art that has ever been on view
there, since the 1960s. Gracie is not a museum, it’s not a white cube in which I’m most familiar
with, sort of curating, within. It’s a living, breathing historical site and the preeminent seat
of power in the city. So what does it mean to usher in a new era of the public image of Gracie, anchored by the accomplishments
of women artists, when a woman has not yet occupied
the highest seat of power, either for our city or of our nation? So the only way out of such a predicament, which we did acknowledge, out of this predicament, the looming inequality and
asymmetry, was to lean into it. To highlight and amplify the voices of a diverse and inclusive set of people who have refused to remain on history’s sidelines. So 44 artists and 63 art objects later, from painting to sculpture,
to print, video and film, we made “She Persists.” So here we see a sculpture by Kara Walker, entitled “Invasive Species,” which greets visitors upon
the entrance to the house. It’s a headless monument to the underbelly of colonialist expansion. Walking through the doors of
the Wagner entrance however, they’ll also see the 20th
century avant garde portraits of the social world of
Wall Street, art, Broadway, etc., in New York, created
by Florine Stettheimer, which you’ll see on your right. But the meta narrative of “She Persists” was this acknowledgement
of the blatant inequality that women, especially women of color, face not only the world at large, but also in the world of culture. So we would’ve been remiss to not show the Guerrilla Girls’ 1985 print poster that called out the art
world for it’s patriarchy and sexism in museums,
cultural institutions and popular culture. So the 13 “Advantages of
Being a Woman Artist,” which we see here, is
a symbolic entry point into this exhibition. Their call to attention for
this social inequalities that remain relevant today, nearly three decades later,
is still very prescient. So the Guerrilla Girls challenge us to underscore how gender and bias are inextricably linked to our cultural value systems. And how perceptions about
difference in identity can structure real and lasting outcomes as we
move throughout the world in our everyday lives. Other works on view were paintings like those of Jennifer Packer. So we see here a really
beautiful floral arrangement sort of painted against this
fiery yellow background. But this also serves as a funerary bouquet for Sandra Bland. The piece is called “Say Her Name,” and Sandra Bland, as we may know, was a black woman who died in the hands of police custody in 2015, and her story galvanized the support of Black Lives Matter. In the drawing rooms we were really able to sort of amp up this idea of provocation through constellation. So on your left, or from left to right, we see Betty Parsons’ famed “Ab Ex Dealer,” who was a prodigious
painter in her own right. Simone Leigh and works by Alice Neel. In other drawing rooms,
I won’t have the time to talk about everything,
but we wanted to play up also juxtapositions between
greater and lesser known artists like Helen Frankenthaler,
on your far right, on the bottom, and on the top, the
circular sort of painting by Betty Blayton-Taylor,
one of the co-founders of the Studio Museum in Harlem. Both artists working abstractly and not necessarily talked about along a sort of continuous
art historical canon. Lastly, one of the major
themes of the exhibition too was sort of thinking about
an expansion of abstraction. So on your right, you see
a beautiful painting by Carmen Herrera, whose minimalist geometric abstractions sort of pre-dated those of Frank Stella. On your left you’ll see two print works by
queer artist Isabel Bishop, who in the late 30s and 40s sort of documented the entrance of women into the work place. You sort of sat on her window, from her window, observing Union Square and made, I think, I would
call social documents of such a transformative time. We also included the work of
artists like Faith Ringgold, who was educated at City College and was told that she
couldn’t get a degree in art, so she had to do a program in education. But that didn’t stop her
from making paintings and prints and quilts, etc. This is the original
“Tar Beach” story quilt, a story that she published
on Cassie Lightfoot, who dreamed of flying over
the George Washington Bridge. Cassie lived in what’s
now known as Sugar Hill and the story is set during
the height of segregation. So in short, I wanna just close by saying, we attempted to use unimaginable juxtapositions that one would sort of see in a museum, sort of think about ways to radicalize the public spaces of Gracie. And I invite you to ask more questions during the Q and A later in the program. Thank you. (audience clapping) – Good afternoon. My name is Blake Bradford. I am here as the Founder and Director of the Points of Entry, which I’ll talk about in a little bit. I wanted to just acknowledge
our friends here at the Frick, so Rika and Persephone and
Aimee and the rest of the team. Thank you for inviting me and
giving me this opportunity. I wanted to talk a fair amount about projects that I’ve been
involved with in Philadelphia, a little bit beyond Philadelphia,
over the last 10 years, and really thinking about participation. For folks that are in the museum field, one of the things that
has been a buzz of late is talking about diversity
and representation on a lot of fronts,
especially around employment. If we look at what the statistics are in terms of who directs
these institutions, who makes decisions at these institutions, who are the people who control the budgets and also who sits in the
positions of governance at the larger institutions. The idea of representation is problematic when we look at just the raw numbers. And so the work that I’ve been doing has both been informed
by that and in sort of a, hopefully, a response to that. And then if folks can see, I’m
there with the saxophonist, is Ken Vandermark, working on a project for his group “Made to Break”
that was presented in 2014 looking at the, if folks are
familiar with The Barnes, these unique kinds of juxtapositions. So you could go into a room
and see Renoir and Cezanne and Matisse, as well as
African cultural artifacts and medieval art and door knockers and lots of these different
things, stuff, on the walls. So exploring notions of hybridity and thinking about objects out of the box. So at the Barnes, the mission
of The Barnes Foundation is to promote the
advancement of education, the appreciation of fine art, that was established
at its charter in 1922. But if you listen to what that is, what does that really mean
in terms of its activities? What does the founder, how does the founder inform this? So Albert Barnes was, for the time, he lived from 1872 to 1951,
oversaw his eponymous foundation from 1992 ’til his death. And he was a progressive for his time. And so we looked at the
progressive agenda that we saw as really the heart of the mission. Barnes was an advocate for, in particular, African American artists,
African American culture. And then another part that,
again, my colleagues in museums will look at is just, how can
you take these institutions that are our legacy
and memory institutions and find a space to experiment, to think about future
practices and model practices? And so there on your right is a program called “The Art of Looking” for fifth and sixth graders, where we utilize works
from the collection, with fifth and sixth graders, to create these
curriculum-aligned projects. Where, for example, they
would look at a painting in the collection, a
two-dimensional painting, and create using their math skills, apply that to creating a
three-dimensional representation of those spaces, looking at proportion and perspective and all of those things. And one other aspect of the
program that I should mention is that, because of the challenges in working with the
Philadelphia public schools around going for a field trip, we had to have
curriculum-aligned programs. And these programs were also presented in two trips at the school and one trip to The Barnes Foundation. And so it was really this more longitudinal kind
of engagement for them. So from The Barnes Foundation, I moved on to Lincoln University, and it was a partnership
with The Barnes Foundation. And how do we bring
students and prepare them for careers and career
opportunities in the museum field? On the right is an image
of me working with students from Tempel University’s
Young Curators Council and my students at Lincoln, we’re there at the National Museum of African America History and Culture. The woman there, there, excellent, Jackie Serwer, who’s a curator of their art collection. And so these high-impact
opportunities and engagements with professionals in the
field, would become platforms for them to think about
their participation. So over the last 10 years
it’s really been about thinking about how institutions model these kinds of inclusive practices, sincere outreach and how you can have these expansive conversations. Again, in institutions, it might be seen as inherently conservative
because you’ve got this investment in collections, an investment in infrastructure an investment in an historical mission. This is a panel called “Who Is We,” that I participated in in Moore College of
Art and Design in 2016. So topics I’m exploring now: How we cultivate
institutional environments that are representative and
are characterized by trust, inclusion and belonging. And then how can we protect spaces where we can ask and address questions that might make us uncomfortable? Finally, I’m working on a
project called “Points of Entry” that aligns programs for youth and creates a more intentional workforce development pipeline, thinking about 13 to 19 year olds, where if we talk about diversity, well what are we actually
doing to build the workforce that we desire? How do we think about that? How do we become more intentional
where many of us are lucky to have sort of fallen into the field and found a mentor? Well, what if instead
of meeting us half way, we went further down the path
to really embrace students? Like these students said, a program students and
museums in Philadelphia. There are 25,000 students who
are enrolled in this program. How do we build this into
a career path for them and create the opportunities
that will create the museum workforce of the future? So, thank you. (audience applauding) – Good afternoon. I’m an art historian and
my name is Susan Cahan. I’m the Dean of the Tyler School of Art at Temple University. And I have tremendous
admiration for the work that went into the Moroni exhibition. The scholarly research and close readings of the pieces presented in the catalog, and the thoughtful pairing
of objects in the galleries, is a tremendous feat, as is the research and
organization needed for a show of this magnitude and complexity. As an educator and curator,
I’ve devoted the majority of my career to expanding
the range and diversity of art presented in museums. My most recent book is on the impact of the
civil rights movement on museums in the United States, through a series of case studies of museums in New York City, the Metropolitan, the
Museum of Modern Art, and the Whitney. I explore how the
efforts of arts activists succeeded in desegregating
museums in some respects, but also modified and
preserved the racial system that was in place before
the civil rights movement. For about 15 years, I
was a museum educator. In this role, the work
that I’m most proud of is a series of projects
that I initiated and lead while I was the curator of education at the New Museum of
Contemporary Art in the 1980s and early 90s. These projects that you
see in these images, we called “Visitor
Participation Projects.” They were designed to expand
the conversation around art by making a place for
the voices of visitors, voices that were not
recognized as a legitimate part of the conversation around art. The voices of museum visitors were added to those of curators,
critics, art historians, collectors, funders, and
other art world insiders. Now this was a particularly
appropriate approach because we were presenting at the New Museum contemporary art, art whose meanings were not
yet codified or canonized. And I’m just gonna briefly
describe what you’re looking at in the top, left-hand image, is a project that we did
called “Homemade TV,” in which visitors could borrow camcorders, and this was in 1989, so
camcorders were not yet widely available, to make videotapes about their own experience
growing up with television in an exhibition devoted to the history of the television set. And the galleries were designed to replicate domestic settings so the visitors could actually use these gallery installations as the sets to produce their videos. And then they were given
a copy of their video to take home, they were invited back
to do a weekend workshop to edit their tape, and then the finished tapes
were actually incorporated into the exhibition,
enabling the audience members to take an actual active role in the creation of content
in the exhibition itself. Now often, a challenge for museums presenting esoteric historical material, is how do you make it relevant
for an audience today? And with respect to the current exhibition of work by Moroni, I find the decision to include a selection
of complimentary objects quite fascinating. This decision adds a
material historical resonance to the exhibition. In imagining other strategies, for expanding the
conversation around this work, what immediately came to my mind was the work of an artist
named Kehinde Wiley, who most of you, I’m
sure, are familiar with, because he was commissioned to
do the presidential portrait of Barack Obama in 2016. Wiley’s portraits of
everyday men and women, and important contemporary figures, riff on specific paintings by old masters, replacing the European aristocrats depicted in those paintings, with contemporary black subjects. Thus, drawing attention to the
absence of African Americans from historical and cultural narratives, typically presented in museums. The subjects in Wiley’s
paintings often wear clothing or carry evocative objects,
not unlike the subjects in Moroni’s paintings. And these individuals
are set against ornate, decorative backgrounds,
that evoke earlier eras and a range of cultures. Some of Wiley’s paintings
are based on street casting, in which he invites
individuals, often strangers he encounters on the street,
to sit for portraits. In this collaborative
process, the model chooses a reproduction of a painting from a book and reenacts the pose of
the painting’s figure. By inviting the subjects to
select their work of art, Wiley gives them a measure of control over the way they’re portrayed, and inserts them into
distinguished history. His most recent project, at
the St. Louis Art Museum, was an exhibition of people
living in Ferguson, Missouri, the city where the uprising
occurred in August 2014, after the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, by police officer Darren Wilson. The unrest in Ferguson
sparked a vigorous debate in the United States
about the relationship between law enforcement
officers and African Americans, and the use of force by police
in Missouri and nationwide. Powerfully introducing
the citizens of Ferguson into the museum, Wiley
based these portraits on paintings in the
museum’s own collection, thus, drawing upon and
expanding the western tradition. All these projects that I’ve mentioned and that we’re hearing about
this afternoon remind us that culture matters because
it defines who we are. And it unifies us within social fabric. It enables us to see beyond our individual identities and interests. And institutions like this matter because they have the
power to publicly declare what is valued by society, what people are valued by society, or not. Thank you. (audience applauding) – Good afternoon. Thank you Rika, Aimee and the
Frick for hosting all of us, it’s a pleasure to be here. My name is Risham Majeed. I specialize in both
historical African art and western medieval art. And I’m just going to present a little bit around a question of how we came to create an idea of the primitive. And in so doing, I pegged this analysis on historical considerations
of collections that no longer exist in the same way that they did in the 19th
century during the height of the Colonial period. So what you’re looking
at over here, right, is a confrontation between Picasso’s famous
“Head of Fernande,” which is at the MoMA now, and a Fang, a reliquary guardian figure. So the relationship between
modernist primitivism that has become emblematic
of Picasso’s work and its dealings with African
art, is quite well known and that’s what’s being shown here. But the larger frame that
you’re seeing around it is the Cloisters, it’s
the chapel of St. Martin from Fuentiduena, in Northern
Spain from the 12th Century. And so this is really what
was not in the picture of modernist primitivism
when I started my research. And so in that confrontation
between African and sort of avant garde modernism
at the early 20th century, the thing that’s always been missing is the role of the kind of autochthonous
or auto-primitivism that happens at the
turn of the 20th century through medieval art, for the French. Things don’t sort of come
fully formed to us, right? We have ideas that have been
building over a period of time. And medieval art, as it was considered in
the light of the museums of the Trocadero which
I’ll show you in a second, formed a kind of pre-furnished idea of the primitive that was
they extended to African art. And this is a history that’s
not really known widely anymore because the museums from which it emerges have been destroyed. So what you see on the top
there is the Trocadero Palace, which is where the Chaillot Hill is now, where you go and take your selfies in front of the Eiffel Tower, that’s where that structure used to be. And it was destroyed for
the World’s Fair of 1937, but it housed these two
very important museums. One was the Museum of Ethnography, where Picasso had his famous
encounter with African art. And on the right is the Museum
of Comparative Sculpture, which had casts of medieval
buildings from the 12th century and then as the museum developed into the 13th and 14th centuries. The comparative element was
to locate French Romanesque, the earliest part of medieval art, from the 11th to the 12th centuries, as the kind of indigenous primitive, to which African art and
Oceanic art were then compared continuously through the juxtaposition that was made available
through these museums. The idea that Picasso was
primarily only engaged with the non-west in his conceptualization of
the now canonical painting “Desmoiselles d’Avignon,”
which is also in MoMA, was part and parcel of
yet another exhibition, which was “Primitivism in Modern Art: Affinities of the Tribal and the Modern,” which took place, of course,
at the Modern in 1984. And even there, they did
not show you the other side of the Trocadero, they only showed you the
Museum of Ethnography, and that’s what I’m showing you up there, are masks related to the
painting of 1907 in the center and on the right side, a kind
of simulation of the galleries of the Trocadero on the right. But no where in the
exhibition was medieval art ever ever introduced or considered
as a kind of predecessor to the primitivism that
the show was advocating, that we know so well
with regard to Picasso. And so just to summarize,
this from William Ruben, who was the catalog and the chairman of the department of paintings
at the Museum of Modern Art before he died, he acknowledges that, that Picasso went to the Trocadero to look at Romanesque sculpture,
not at African art. And that for him, there
was a logical sense of the non-naturalistic, the
primitive, the anonymous artist that had appealed to him. And then only by chance, did he sort of step into
the Museum of Ethnography and he carried with him the associations that he had already
built around medieval art and extended them to African art. Now, today, all of that is missing, right? When you go to MoMA, the
painting is entirely on its own. It actually no longer
even has companion pieces of the same period that it
used to a few years ago. So all of these kind of additive histories that lead to this canonical
piece of modernist primitivism of the beginnings of
Picasso’s cubist period, in fact owe a lot to something that preceded the colonial project. So I’ll end with that
and thank you very much for your attention. (audience applauding) – Thank you all so much. I’m Lucy Lang and I have the privilege of moderating the upcoming conversation. If you’ll just bear with us,
we’re going to lower the screen and have the panelists take our seats. I’d love to start the conversation
in really broad strokes on why it matters that we’re having this
conversation at all. Susan, you concluded by saying that one of the real issues here is that who’s represented in art, is that it reflects
which people are valued. Do you, or others, have other thoughts on why it matters who’s represented? – I’ll go. I think one part of that
is, as we’re seeing now, and in the present sort
of post-modern moment, is the idea of history
as something that is complex and not specifically convenient. Just thinking about,
especially as we see it in these institutions that
reflect a kind of power, the opportunity to include histories and
peoples and to look at this as something expansive. Or there’s also the converse
for me of thinking about a sort of arrogant narrative, where it’s like, this is the way it is, you know? Even somebody like Moroni,
just got kind of written out of art history. Really before I was
involved with this project, It wasn’t somebody that I knew as a mid-16th century Italian artist. And the sort of easy
moment of Bernard Berenson saying, “Yeah, this guy
wasn’t that important.” And he’s out. But these ideas of
rediscovery and realizing and, I’m trying to remember
who was talking about it. I guess Jessica you were talking
about the complexity of some of the stories and Aimee as well, in terms of what is represented and who, the sort of royal who, is represented in some of the portraits. And I think, looking at
this as what you’re seeing being more complex in how
you approach the world, as thinking about, well, maybe
there’s more here to see, is an important kind of pivot for me, in terms of thinking about
ideas of representation. – So on that score, is
there something unique about the function that
portraiture fills in our tradition that makes it a particularly
salient question as compared to city scenes
or other kinds of art? – I’ll take a go at that one. So, I mean, portraiture, I think that we, in the way that the
exhibition addresses it is, we’re looking at portraiture,
not just in the sense of an individual who’s being commemorated, but as portraits as kind of
ambassadors of ideas, right? So portraits don’t necessarily
need to be representational of a person. You can also form a portrait
of an entire place or period, as museums do, through an
accumulation of objects. And objects then become a kind of portrait of a time or a place. So I think we have to be,
as this Moroni show is, really flexible about what you include when you’re constituting
a kind of image of an age or a person. – I actually don’t think that portraiture holds a special place in questions of representational
politics, if you will. I think that the question
of representation in museums is really complicated and it has a lot of different dimensions. And so, we when we walk into this building and we know it was the Frick home, that is an aspect of
representation that this building becomes a museum. And why is that a building like this is sort of a pre-fabricated museum. And then in my own work, as I discussed, the issue of audience
representation, I think, is really important and interpretation because
the process of interpretation is also engaged with
issues of representation. Whose voice is, who’s
framing the questions that are being asked? Who’s framing the dialogue? And I think that if
you, just to very simply suggest, how even subject matter itself is, even if it’s not portraiture, that issues of
representation are involved. If you think about the AshCan school and what the AshCan
school was trying to do in represent certain aspects of society that we’re not necessarily celebrated, but that they felt deserved attention. You know all throughout art
history, western art history, you can find examples of artists really pushing at the envelope
of what is representable within the frame of art. And so I see this as being part of the issues of representation, being part of a much larger systemic questions of
the interrelationship between these different elements. – Yeah I wanna add in thinking
about your question, Lucy, and in response Susan. I’m thinking about portraiture as in a contemporary, or more recent, sort of notion. So if I refer back to the Alice Neel, oh thanks, if I refer back to the Alice Neel portrait that I included in the show at Gracie, it’s this anti-Madonna
and Child representation of Jenny Neel, Alice
Neel’s daughter-in-law and Jenny’s newborn baby. And we see this sort of frenzy where this is this real
palpable sense of anxiety, postpartum anxiety. And for Alice Neel to take
that opportunity, in 1974, at the height of the feminist movement, to give this picture of
motherhood that’s not so rosy, it’s such a radical gesture to make. And to imagine that piece being, either at a place
like Gracie Mansion or let’s say, in a museum space, it opens up a series of conversations that museum goers and visitors
can have with a work of art. To see their experiences
recognized by someone else. And that shift, I think,
is a relatively new territory for western modern and contemporary contexts. Because at the turn of the 19th century, museums were envisioned as
places to make good citizens. And now, one of the major aspects
of going to museum spaces, second to leisure, is this kind
of idea of finding yourself or your experiences
reflected in what you see. So portraiture becomes, I think, a critical sort of thread of that type of encounter. – That’s beautiful. Going down to the micro now, when this museum first
opened to the public had a public panel been
convened of experts, it wouldn’t look like this panel. And I wonder if this question
is personal to each of you and if so, what is it that sort
of personally motivates you to take on these questions
of representation in your own work? And I’d love to hear from
all of you, if you would. It’s not personal. Purely political.
– Blake, alphabetical. – I guess it’s me.
– Jessica. – I think the personal
is always political. And for me, having had a long standing relationship with the field, like
from undergrad to now, I’ve always sort of sought to, I always look to artists
to tell those stories. That the artists will always
sort of light the path for me. So I think that’s sort of a mantra or ethos that guides the kind of work that I do. Whether I’m writing or putting together an exhibition, that I really sort of center the voices set before me by the sort of artists who are participating in
or the objects that have, that exist in my shows. – So I’ve been in museums for a long time and thinking about, in its way, just how they haven’t felt
like participatory spaces. It’s like I’ve been in
museums for a long time and I’ve participated but also just, you look around and you
can see who goes to shows or what is, I was having a conversation with a friend and he was talking about working at a contemporary art institution, or contemporary art museum and it’s like, once you call yourself that, you’ve sort of made a
specific ethnographic choice about your audience. And for me, feeling like there
is something more possible around the idea of representation. You go to Philadelphia and the
Philadelphia Museum of Art, there’s a sort of
declaration of who it’s for and what it has. But if you were to go there, your experience of Philadelphia, for example, is a city
that’s like 52% black. And when you see institutions
that say Philadelphia, who’s participating? So there’s a sort of, I
wouldn’t say it’s optimism all the time, but it’s always an idealism about what museums could be. Because I think, as we discuss this, there is this idea that museums are
so deeply informative to our culture or our
sense of our larger selves. And so, that we could help museums
sort of repair a relationship. That’s sort of where
the idealism comes from. – That’s a big question. So first of all, I’m gonna
make a plug for my book. (laughing) called “Mounting Frustration: The Art Museum In the Age of Black Power,” which looks, as I said, at the impact of the civil rights movement on museums in the United
States through case studies of The Metropolitan Museum
of Art, MoMA and the Whitney. And what I learned through my research is that prior to the
1960s, these museums were, with the exception of a
few moments here and there, these museums were completely exclusive. And I interviewed Tom
Hoving, before he died, who had been the director
of the Metropolitan Museum during the 60s into the, actually mid-70s, and he told me that when a person of color would try to
enter the Metropolitan Museum in the 1960s, they would
be turned away at the door. And they would be told that
the museum was a private club. And I uncovered so much historical research that gave me an idea of what the museums, generally speaking, were like, prior to the civil rights
movement, that I have to say, that I know that the moment
that we’re occupying now, in which we see museums as
places where we’re looking to see ourselves reflected, where we think of them as
ideal spaces for instilling the possibility of a certain
kind of cultural connectedness, that this is an of the last 50 years. That this is not an
idea that predates that. Although museums had
other ideological agendas, as Jessica mentioned. So my own personal
involvement with these issues really started very early. And when I was in high school, I went to a high school where, instead of taking
classes your senior year, you could do an internship
or an independent study and get credit for it. And I thought that that was really great ’cause it was so much more
fun to do an internship than to take classes. And my high school art teacher suggested that I apply for
a high school apprenticeship at the Metropolitan. So I did and I was hired there. And so I worked in the
Community Programs Department at the Met. I was 16. I actually worked with Rika Burnham, who’s the Director of Education here. And the Community Programs Department was created to try to make the Metropolitan
more publicly engaged and more responsive to
a broader community. And at that moment, interestingly enough, Philippe de Montebello,
became the director in 1978, while I was there as an intern, and one of the first things he did is he eliminated the
Community Programs Department. And I was left then without an internship. That’s one of the ways I got to know Rika, she and one of her colleagues
took me under their wing. I’m saying all this because museums, during the last 50 years,
have been contested spaces. They are fraught with contradiction. You’ve got elite forces at work, culturally suppressive forces at work, and then you have forces
for cultural inclusion and expansivity and diversity. These contradictions, I
find, absolutely fascinating. And I’ve devoted all of
my scholarly research to exploring these contradictions. And so for me, it’s both personal and it’s very professional. – I think that it has to be both at the same time in the sense that the more you
try to excise your background from what you do, the more
it comes to be the subject of your research. And so there’s a couple
of different things that you said that resonated
with me, all of you. One is that, representation is not reflection. So just because you are in a space, doesn’t mean that you are in a space that represents an entire
sort of plethora of people. And those choices are
still being made by people who may not have the best kind of texture of differentiation for those spaces. Meaning that, you need to have a plurality of voices in the major institutions, in all fields, not just African art or Indian art or whatever sort of subcategory of the non-west you’re doing. People need to be able to
have a kind of distinction in their approach to the
Renaissance, which allows you to think about how the Renaissance wasn’t a kind of closed
environment of one man genius to the other, right? And then that comes
from a lot of diversity of the people who are making decisions, not just the people who are
being shown within the space. (audience laughing) – Hold onto that. So thinking about the orientation
of the decision maker, I think that at the same time that the Met was turning away
people of color at the door, that the Barnes would
actually turn away socialites who came to the door. And so it shows these very
different philosophies of largely white institutions. And I wonder what we can learn about the identity of founders, collectors, etc. And how you all take that
into account as shepherds of the, I think Blake,
you called it the legacy and memory institutions. But also as innovators,
as activists, as advocates for a new generation of social thought, as it relates to the arts. – I guess since you mentioned the Barnes, I’ll sort of start in. And I think it’s an interesting challenge in being here at the Frick
and thinking about that. There’s a different notion
in the present tense of transparency and bias
that I think is important to understand when we think about, and Risham and I were
talking about some of that, on the standards of the times and how certain expectations
have certainly evolved. And so, when we look
at those institutions, a place like the Barnes,
the inclusion and exclusion was in a lot of ways an outlier, and Barnes, because of his own background, sought to be an outlier as he didn’t consider
The Barnes Foundation as a museum in the same way. And it’s still, they had public days, they have art in the
wall, in many ways it is but I think he sought to be an outlier in that regard. But I think then we think about the sort of larger culture of museums and how they had been established. There are ways that Barnes
very much participated in that. And there’s the picture in the catalog of the David Teniers’ picture
that many people have seen. It’s of the collection of archduke, I can’t remember his name, but it’s one of these famous
personal collections of, Aimee, do you remember? – [Aimee] Leopold. – Archduke Leopold. So a lot of people are familiar
with these kinds of images of an institution that predate the museum where there’s the private
collector with his stuff from floor to ceiling. Whether we like it or not,
that’s kind of a culture that museums, in the present
tense, of grown out of and they are still emerging from. So whether we’re at an institution that might’ve had progressive
roots or conservative roots, once you say you are a museum, that is the ground underneath your feet. – Does that ring true for you Jessica? Having done your most
recent work in a home, albeit, a large public, political one? – I would say the interesting sort of point of note from that project, is thinking about the way, For Gracie Mansion, I sort of worked with a number of New York
institutions to loan works for the show. And time after time again I would know that works
would be in their collection and not on view, but museums would have such bureaucratic tape around
getting objects to spaces that weren’t y-keep spaces. But I think also, it’s really
difficult for institutions to lend works for shows like mine. And so I remember getting on a call with one of the curators at the Whitney, and I asked for a specific
Cindy Sherman photograph. And she was like, “Sorry,
can’t give you that. “Women are ‘in’ right now.” (audience laughing) Which was hilarious but the
show that the Sherman photograph was going to be in, was a Whitney show and it was going to happen
two years from then. The photograph had come
out of cold storage and was on view for a few months and now it was going
back into cold storage. So there’s all of this
kind of dancing that museums have to do around that kind of engagement
beyond their own exhibitions but sort of lending works
to be circulated widely. I say that to bring up a point about the rise of the mega collector now and the ways in which collectors are competing with cultural institutions for some of the more significant works in our time period. And so what does it mean that works that provoke such important conversations, come out of public circulation
into private hands? I think about the Barnes
and “Bonheur De Vivre” being before the Barnes reopened in such a public way. That painting being so
important in art history but so few people have
actually laid eyes on it. So I’m being very long-winded here, but to say, it’s super complicated and cultural institutions make
it really difficult sometimes to enact the missions that
they say that they stand for. – I think an extension of what
you’re talking about Jessica is the phenomenon of the private museum, the Broad museum
– Yes. being the foremost example. in which an individual
collector, or couple collecting, have enough wealth and power to be able to create their own museum. And the choices that
they made individually, of course informed by critical commentary and curatorial expertise, but still, that they made as a couple, then become public culture. That is the really interesting phenomenon. And then, for me, as Carol Duncan has talked about in, is it Carol Duncan? God, yeah, “Civilizing Places?” Right, museums as – [Rika] “Civilizing Rituals.”
– “Civilizing Rituals.” She talks about the role of the museum visitor as being kind of a projection of the
identity of the collector. And that that’s a, oh no,
no, it’s not Carol Duncan, it’s Andrea Fraser talks about that. Andrea Fraser talks about that. That the role of the visitor
in a museum like this or in a museum like the Broad, becomes a pseudo collector. That their relationship to the artwork becomes like a kind of voyeuristic mimicry of the private collector. And what that, if you take
that idea and you extend it a little bit, it becomes an
erasure of their own identity. So it’s a very interesting phenomenon but I think that the rise
of the private museum is something that is probably gonna be one of the primary legacies of the era that we’re living in now. – I wanna add that too
because when we think about marginalized voices and marginalized identities in that sort of collector sphere, what are the implications of, I think about private
collections like the Broad, the Norton’s, etc. But, I can’t think of an
African American collector, who has started their own institution. And so the landscape gets
really myopic quite quickly. If we wanted to sort of escalate
the implications of that. – Thinking about that tension and all of this, do you think that our country’s uniquely heinous racial history distinguishes the mandate
of our arts institutions from those in other countries? – Well, I mean, it has a
distinctly violent past, but so do other countries. I think the distinction to be made is, the hierarchal relationship
that’s established between a colony and a metropol, versus the sort of legacy of slavery. It comes out in different
kinds of ways, right? So, I mean, in the 70s, into the 80s, you have a sort of rehashing through
the civil rights movements of what is happening in museums, as you write in your book as well. But at the same time,
this is what’s going on in Europe now, is the
conversation around restitution. So what relationship do museums have to their former colonies, right, is not the same as the
relationship that the Met has to African Americans, for example. So I mean, I think we
have to be very specific about issues of diversity and inclusion on a very kind of compelling timeline that’s historically grounded. Because otherwise, you tend to unify something that is
really quite different. And so the way that the Met’s
gonna deal with this issue versus the Quai Branly or the Louvre, will be entirely different
and will have a direct impact on their demographic. – I’m glad to hear that
women are in right now and I hope that it lasts. We’ve had kind of a
rough run historically. But it’s nearly 50 years now
since the publication of “Why Have There Been
No Great Women Artists?” And I wonder your thoughts on
whether things have changed, whether they’ve changed as
dramatically as they should have and what the state of affairs
is for women artists now. Bearing in mind that I think there are five women artists
represented in this collection out of hundreds of artists overall. – I’m so cynical. – All right, lay it on us. – Well the majority of
art students are women. The majority of art historians are women. There is gender hierarchy
within the institutions where majority of museum workers
in certain roles are women. Like look at this. Look at the way we are. Look at the audience for God’s sakes. I just feel terrible about this, but this morning I was
thinking that if the art world becomes too feminized,
it will lose its stature. So it’s not about, it’s that misogyny and
sexism is so deeply rooted that were women to really attain power in the art world that the art world itself would be diminished in
the popular imagination because of the sexism running so deep. And I hope I’m wrong. – Break out the wine somebody. (audience laughing) Other thoughts on it? – Go ahead, no you go.
– Go ahead. – Yeah, I’m hopefully pessimistic,
if that makes sense. Like I understand that the problem is systemic and structural. It’s also very much rooted in in terms of how we come to know. So it goes back to how we’re educated. Both in school but then also
how we’re socialized as well. And so, how do you, I think Linda Nochlin
sort of got this so right in posing the question and then also offering a
criticism of the very nature of that question. Meaning, what is it about our attachments to this idea of a kind of art history that we need to sort of modify it, as opposed to completely obliterating our understanding of it. I’m really sort of making
broad strokes and summarizing that seminal essay, but I think fear is a very big component in sort of keeping our
institutions sort of back. We realize institutions are made of people and so all it takes is
sort of one or two people in very high positions of power to really kind of completely
shift the paradigm in a more localized way. And if that can happen across the board, then we’d be in a much better position. However, the moves have to
also be made in our society. They can’t be just in the
sort of world of culture. But the world of culture is
a part of society at large. And certainly sort of
contingent upon our biases and blind spots. – Many of you may have
seen the Guggenheim show, the Klint Show, which was widely reviewed and well received. I think the other danger for women artists in traditionally masculine narratives, is to also give them
the masculine narrative. Rather than to understand that Klint wasn’t really a predecessor
for Kandinsky, right? She was really doing her own thing. And she may not have been
involved in your grand narrative that lead to Picasso and whomever else you wanna put in there. So we resist the complexity of moments for women because we only have one model. And so we need to throw away the model. – So does that partially account for the record breaking sales
out of Sotheby’s this winter of the “Women Triumphant” show, which was a major sale of
works by women painters? Or is that just a reflection
of the commodification of women artists? – I think that was a lot of marketing. And ultimately the sale
was for a good cause. Aggie Gund and Oprah
Winfrey teamed together and some of the proceeds
will go to the right place. But we’ve also got to recognize that this moment,
we’ve been here before. As Thelma Golden always says, “And we’re gonna be back here again.” And so the preparedness for
when this moment arises again is something that I think
deserves a lot of focus as well. – You spoke a little bit,
Blake, about participation and we’ve been talking
about the role of the viewer who comes to museums. And I wonder if there
is something specific about museum education and
what museum education can do in this political and artistic moment to take on the question
of our presentation. – That’s a big lift in a lot of ways. I think when we start to
see the systemic problems, sometimes I guess it almost feels disingenuous to put this museum education, when these are systemic problems. It’s sort of like, what are women gonna do
about representation? What are African Americans gonna do about, So there’s a piece of it that I almost feel like what we can do in these little compartments
of the problem is, how we call out the problem. There are things that, the
program that I’ve proposed, looking for funding all of that, but ways that say the lack of diversity and
representation on museum staff or what we say when we mean museums, is emblematic of large
scale social problems and sort of policy problems. But how can we call those things out and take these little incremental steps but not declare a victory
because we had a program that served 10,000 kids in the
Philadelphia Public Schools or something like that? I think it’s like, we do the work, but we also acknowledge
the work yet to be done. That we’ll be back at this moment. – Can I expand upon that?
– Please. – I began my career as a museum educator and I believe that museum
education is really important. But I also know that the explosive increase in
museum education programs happened in the 1970s and it has continued since then. And I believe that the
rise in museum education is one of the tactics that museums used to diversify in a certain arena and avoid diversification in other arenas. And so I describe that as segregation in the guise of integration. Because if you focus on museum education as the primary side of integration, you’re really focusing on the realm in which the people have the least possible power. And that’s one of the things
that lead me to develop those visitor participation
projects at the New Museum, because I wanted to transform the role of the audience member from someone who was a
recipient of knowledge to a knowledge producer. – Lightening round. If you could each acquire one piece to add to the Frick’s collection,
what would the piece be? – [Aimee] Given the constraints of it. – This is the realm of fantasy. – I will go first then. One thing? So I would think that the
impulse might be good to go into the contemporary
as a kind of gloss on the past. But I think for the Frick,
there’s so much more kind of historical painting available that you could then pair
and sort of expand ideas about the collection. And some of that is from
the voyages of discovery in the 18th century,
and so I might acquire a portrait of somebody that Aimee knows. A Polynesian man. Something that amplifies and
engages the rest of the world for a canonical piece in the collection. And I have one in mind and Aimee can tell you
about it another time. (audience laughing) – I think the museum should commission Kehinde Wiley to do a
portrait of Mark Zuckerberg. (audience laughing) – There are a couple of approaches for me thinking about this. And maybe just because we’ve been talking about portraiture, it’s
definitely portraiture. The things about Barkley Hendricks, he’s a Philadelphian
and his work is amazing and I think is sort of
the jumping off point, for so many contemporary portraitists. The other is Mickalene Thomas, who’s a more contemporary sense and just in terms of it. – I am thinking about an artist who I’m super excited about, Elizabeth Colomba, who actually paints
black subjects from the 17th, 18th and early 19th century, in the style of sort of European painters. And she’s finding a way to
sort of recenter blackness within sort of little known narratives. And so, yeah, she’s contemporary
but I think her work would be super relevant to the collection. – Thank you, take it under
advisement Frick staff. Before I invite the audience
to join the panelists in the galleries, I wonder
if you’ll each conclude by sharing one detail
from the Moroni exhibition that particularly speaks to you. – Well okay, when you first walk in, there’s a painting where the figure is wearing these chain mail sleeves. That sleeve is incredible. I just really wanted to own it. (laughing) Or at least try it on. – I was walking the galleries just briefly and the sort of cold stare
that a lot of the figures have where they’re just, it’s
like this hard stare and it reminded me actually
I think of another work of, there’s the Dawoud Bey outside, Dawoud Bey photograph of somebody outside the 125th street theater. Or the theater on 125th street. But just like that, little
bit of a dead eyed stare as you walk through the collection. – I think what I really
liked about the Moroni show was how the “Tailor” enables everything that
you’re seeing in the show. Essentially without the “Tailor,” you don’t have any of those clothes that you’re all lusting after, right? So the tailor is not only a subject but a kind of progenitor as the artist is a progenitor as well, so I really liked that. – And I will answer the
question in the galleries as we experience the work together. – Perfect. Thank you so much Rika, Persephone, Aimee, for welcoming this extraordinary
panel here to the Frick. And I hope you will all
join us in the galleries to continue the conversation. Thank you. (audience applauding)

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