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Brooklyn Museum Appoints New Curator Of African Art – Causes Outrage

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PROSPECT HEIGHTS – The Brooklyn Museum’s recent announcement of the new curator for its African Art department is inciting outrage among the black community and stirring up a social media storm.

Starting in April, Kristen Windmuller-Luna will begin her role as the Sills Family Consulting Curator of African Art at the museum. Windmuller-Luna received her Ph.D. and M.A. in Art and Archaeology from Princeton University and her B.A. in the History of Art from Yale University. She is a curator and historian of African arts and architecture and specializes in the early modern period and Christian Ethiopia.

Many have taken to social media to express their disapproval of the Museum’s decision and to condemn the appointment of a white woman, instead of a person of color, to curate the institution’s African Art department.

“Windmuller-Luna will assess and rethink the Brooklyn Museum’s extensive holdings of African art, which is comprised of more than 6,000 objects, and organize an innovative, freshly conceived temporary installation showcasing the breadth and depth of the collection,” according to the Brooklyn Museum announcement.

“Working with the curatorial team, she will focus on creating a visual dialogue between the African art collection and other significant works within the Museum’s holdings.”

“Dr. Windmuller-Luna is a fine fit for this position,” Larry and Susan Sills stated in the Museum’s announcement. “We look forward to witnessing the creative ways she will approach the study and display of the Brooklyn Museum’s renowned African art collection.” The Sills Family Foundation is a supporter of the Brooklyn Museum.

“Kristen is the perfect choice to build upon the Brooklyn Museum’s track record as an innovator in the collection and exhibition of the arts of Africa,” the Museum’s Deputy Director and Chief Curator, Jennifer Chi, said in the release. “Her vision for a new permanent collection installation that transforms how viewers relate to the arts of Africa is tremendously exciting for us as we near the 100th anniversary of the Brooklyn Museum’s pioneering exhibition of African art in 1923.”

BKLYNER reached out to the Brooklyn Museum for comment and will update after we receive a response.

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11 COMMENTS

  1. Reminds me of mess some years ago when Brandeis or Yeshiva appointed an Irish guy to head the Jewish Studies department.

    Q: Did any qualified African apply?

  2. About those tweets: maybe those people should consider that these two may have been simply the most qualified job applicants for the job instead of launching knee-jerk, racist reactions that are truly unhelpful.

  3. Oh, please. They are not coming to “whitewash.” It’s 2018. This is not about politicization. They are curators. They know, have studied and understand African art. A qualified person of color who felt they were arbitrarily rejected for the role should step forward. Otherwise, please save the outrage for something tangible.

  4. You’re delusional. How can they understand something that their culture stole? It is a race issue. Keep living in denial whitey.

  5. Is Ms. Windmuller-Luna qualified for the job? Undoubtedly. But the choice to appoint her is as bizarre and controversial as if they had appointed a man to head the Elizabeth Sackler Center for Feminist Art. And you can bet your Judy Chicago badge collection that there would be protests on the steps of the museum if that were ever the case. The Smithsonian managed to find a black director for the Museum of African Art, a British born SOAS educated historian. Nope, this appointment is offensive and deserves an explanation of how they conducted the search process.

  6. If anyone actually read the news release it clearly states Mr. Sawyer taking the role of Curator of Photography and does not limit it to solely African Art.
    What I also find troubling, Ms. Wong, is that you trolled Twitter to make a story of this, further fueling inaccurate reporting. “CAUSES OUTRAGE”…by 6 people?

  7. @Christie Verola – no one is questioning the hiring of Drew Sawyer as photography curator. The issue is the hiring of a white woman to head the department of African Art when there are many art historians of color with experience in the field of African Art. That is the story, and it’s not just on Bklyner. It’s all over the news.

  8. Hi @Ms718, but the story was picked up due to some tweets and the tweets in question are suggesting there are 2 “flour white” folks up for dual positions. Each tweet noted it as plural, curators.

  9. To those who say there are qualified historians of color available for the post: Name them, and detail their qualifications, please. I’m prepared to believe you, but only if you deliver up some tiny smattering of evidence. Surely that’s not too much to ask.

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