The Brooklyn Museum welcomed two new curators for its photography and African art collections this week, but the new hires have left some critics scratching their heads in confusion.
Kristen Windmuller-Luna, a curator and historian of African arts and architecture, was made the Sillis Family Consulting Curator of African art, while artist Drew Sawyer was appointed to the Phillip Leonian and Edith Rosenbaum Leonian Curator of Photography, according to BK Reader.
Both curators are white, however, leaving many to wonder why a person of color wasn’t tapped for the role of African art curator.
“We’re thrilled to welcome Drew and Kristen to our fantastic curatorial team during this period of great momentum as we expand exhibitions, public programs, and educational reach,” museum director Anne Pasternak said in a statement.
According to the new site, Sawyer will “reimagine the role of photography collections” at the museum and seek ways to creatively integrate them with other galleries and exhibits. Meanwhile, Windmuller-Luna will be tasked with rethinking the Brooklyn museum’s entire collection of African art, which includes more than 6,000 objects and artifacts.
“…Her focus will be to create a dialogue between the African art collection and other works within the museum’s holdings while also helping to develop educational programming,” BK Reader stated.
The new appointments have critics shaking in disbelief, some of them blasting the urban museum for failing to appoint a qualified minority to curate, and grow its existing African art collection.
BETTER HEADLINE: "Brooklyn Museum Welcomes Two New Cultural Colonizers for African Art and Photography"
— Ernest Owens (@MrErnestOwens) March 27, 2018
Gets worse. “Lena Windmuller-Luna will *rethink* the Brooklyn Museum’s extensive African art collection and organize new temporary installations; Drew Sawyer will oversee the photography collection and *reimagine* its role within the museum.” 🤦🏼♂️
— Derek Trombuccino Begg (@derekbegg) March 27, 2018
— Melina Rodriguez (@melina5299) March 27, 2018
— Enid Seymore (@EnidSeymore) March 27, 2018
But their not Afri… nvrmind. Everybody can benefit from our culture except us…why…HOW DO THEY CONTROL OUR NARRATIVE? pic.twitter.com/MRkmVG9n0R
— Aye (a-ye) (@MyValley13) March 27, 2018
This just brought me back to the museum scene in Black Panther. Sigh. In one of the Blackest cities in the US the Brooklyn museum hires two white curators to lead their African art & photo collection. I guess there were no qualified Black curators around. https://t.co/BEbYI0RrN1
— Bobby Rogers (@Bobbyrogers_) March 28, 2018
IS THIS YOUR CURATORS??? pic.twitter.com/Wtq8bMZSbi
— sarah, the reporter (@amyharvard_) March 27, 2018
Then there were others who argued that there may be a shortage of nonwhite degree-holders with backgrounds in African art and architecture, pointing to the lack of POCs appointed to museum curator positions.
The reactions to this are very interesting. Though I wish it were otherwise, how many folks of color are getting MAs & PhDs though in art and archaeology of Africa? From what I hear, there aren't too many & that's a problem.
— Ebony SkyTalker (@sfreynolds) March 27, 2018
In short, until tomorrow, we’re really talking about planting seeds NOW for diverse futures later. It’s not just believing that there MUST be qualified people of color in every field, cuz, well, there just aren’t.
— Ebony SkyTalker (@sfreynolds) March 28, 2018
I’m seeing noise about a Brooklyn Museum hiring white folks for the African-American exhibits.
Folks, this is a structural problem in the industry.
Dollars to donuts they’d have been happy to bring in PoC for the positions.
— DONT LET BEN CARSON OPERATE ON ME (@WilliamPieper) March 28, 2018
The Brooklyn Museum hasn’t responded to the outrage.