Black Women Curators

A Brief Oral History of the Recent Past

Authored by: Kemi Adeyemi

The Routledge Companion to African American Art History

Print publication date:  December  2019
Online publication date:  November  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138486553
eBook ISBN: 9781351045193
Adobe ISBN:


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The mid-2000s saw an unprecedented rise in the number of black women appointed to ­curatorial positions in major institutions throughout the United States. Black women assumed curatorial roles in major museums including the Hammer Museum, the Institutes of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia and Richmond, Studio Museum in Harlem, Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, Brooklyn Museum, and others. They were also named curators of Made In LA, the Whitney Biennial, Prospect New Orleans, and the New Museum Triennial. They also took on critical roles in educational programming and upper management at institutions like the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Dia Art Foundation, the Museum of Contemporary Art Los Angeles, and the Museum of African Diaspora. These hirings represent museums’ attempts to diversify their staff in an era when they are facing declining attendance and when they face empowered publics demanding that museums’ hiring, acquisitions, and exhibitions reflect the demographic and cultural diversity of the neighborhoods, cities, and regions they are situated in. There have always been black women curators—it seems that museums are only recently recognizing their value and are taking steps to support their work.

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