One of the country’s first large cultural institutions to realize such a proposition according to The New York Times, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York has approved a plan to help expand diversity and fight racism within the institution. The two-year leadership features a number of measures including the establishment of paid internships for students with underrepresented and disadvantaged backgrounds. Guggenheim is also seeking to join forces with colleges that are historically Black to promote job offerings alongside the new hiring of a high-ranking manager to oversee diversity strategies.
A committee that will investigate the Guggenheim’s exhibitions and acquisitions surrounding equity and diversity has also been outlined by the institution, alongside the development of an industry-wide network for Black people Indigenous people, and people of color who work in arts-related fields.
The initiative follows a signed letter by staff who shed light on longstanding racism in the institution. The letter was submitted by Guggenheim curators alongside department leaders who urged for immediate reform on the institution’s “inequitable work environment that enables racism, white supremacy, and other discriminatory practices.” The museum then continued investigating the incidents surrounding the museum’s 2019 Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition and the mistreatment of first independent and Black curator at Guggenheim Chaédria LaBouvier, who curated the show, after which she stated that working with Nancy Spector, the museum’s artistic director and chief curator, “was the most racist professional experience of my life.” A report on the matter is expected to arrive in fall.
The demographic of the Guggenheim’s attendees has to reflect the more diverse makeup of New York, expressed the committee. The authors of the plan, who count a total of eight authors alongside one outsourced consultant, four of whom identify as Black, demanded more inclusion too, and more exhibitions spotlighting artists from historically marginalized groups. They also expressed that “[w]ithin the iconic space the Rotunda, the museum has never held a solo exhibition of a Black artist, a woman artist of color, an Indigenous artist, or a trans-identified artist.”
The Guggenheim’s diversity plan comes amidst financial woes due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The museum’s announced deficit of 15 million will be maintained by contributions from trustees. The museum even reallocated money from its budget to help aid its diversity initiatives. And although most cultural institutions in New York City will reopen on August 24 as per Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s announcement over the weekend, administrators at the Guggenheim stated that the museum will not reopen until at least October.