Saturday, April 14, 2018

My Opinion Editorial in The New York Times

After my initial response to the social media criticisms of the National Cathedral, Accra, designed by David Adjaye, I have now written a bit more, now as an Op-ed in the New York Times (Sunday Review) in print on April 15, 2018. If you want to know what more I said about this stuff, here is the link to the online edition. If you disagree, say so!

Monday, April 9, 2018

BBC World News on Brooklyn Museum controversy

If you missed the BBC World News program last week, here's a clip of it.

Friday, April 6, 2018

Doctoral Research Grants at Emory University




Closing Date: Tuesday 1 May 2018

The African Critical Inquiry Programme is pleased to announce the 2018 Ivan
Karp Doctoral Research Awards to support African doctoral students in the
humanities and humanistic social sciences who are enrolled at South African universities
and conducting dissertation research on relevant topics. Grant amounts vary
depending on research plans, with a maximum award of ZAR 40,000.

The African Critical Inquiry Programme (ACIP) seeks to advance inquiry and
debate about the roles and practice of public culture, public cultural
institutions and public scholarship in shaping identities and society in
Africa. The Ivan Karp Doctoral Research Awards are open to African
postgraduate students (regardless of citizenship) in the humanities and
humanistic social sciences. Applicants must be currently registered in a
Ph.D. programme in a South African university and be working on topics
related to ACIP's focus. Awards will support doctoral research projects
focused on topics such as institutions of public culture, particular
aspects of museums and exhibitions, forms and practices of public scholarship, culture
and communication, and the theories, histories and systems of thought that
shape and illuminate public culture and public scholarship. Awards are open
to proposals working with a range of methodologies in the humanities and
humanistic social sciences, including research in archives and collections,
fieldwork, interviews, surveys, and quantitative data collection.

For full information about this opportunity and how to apply, see the full
Call for Proposals listed under "ACIP Opportunities" on our website:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

BBC World TV discussion of the Brooklyn African Curator Hire today at 11:30 EDT

Still on the Brooklyn Museum hire of curator of African Art, BBC World TV will broadcast a discussion I am having with Stephanie Johnson-Cunningham of Museum Hue today at 11:30EDT. The broadcast will be live-streamed at

And by the way, how come the Brooklyn Museum has not said a word in response to the controversy caused by its hire? It's been nearly a week since their announcement caused the now well-covered matter. Yet, nothing? Are they trying to wait it out? Do they not think that they should state their position? Say something, folks. Whatever. So we know.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Brooklyn Museum controversy: My WNYC interview podcast

The problems that plague representation in the art world are far broader than a single appointment.
( Frank Augstein AP Photo ) Courtesy, WNYC

If you want to hear my other thoughts about the hire of Kristen Windmuller-Luna as curator of African Art at Brooklyn Museum, WNYC's The Takeaway on 93.9FM interviewed me this morning, and will re-broadcast this afternoon at 3:45PM Eastern:
Click HERE for the podcast

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Brooklyn Museum, African Art, and the matter of diversity in the artworld.

So, yesterday, I was sent a number of questions to answer by a journalist interested in the controversy about the hire of Kristen Windmuller-Luna as consulting curator of African art at Brooklyn Museum of Art. Here below are the questions and my responses.But in case you don't have time to read through it, the take away is that I fully support her hire, and while we must press on museums and art history schools to do more to diversify their curatorial, managerial and professorial ranks, it makes absolutely no sense to say that white people should not be hired to curate or teach African art. 

What does the African art community look like?
The question for me is whether there is anything one could call the African art community. What I see are two "communities" with different claims to and interests in the arts of continental African societies. “African art” as a field of endeavor constituted by collecting, merchandising, conservation, research, and scholarship was originally established by white Europeans and Americans in the age of empire. In the US and Europe, there has not been a substantial change in the racial and class make up this community. And because we are dealing with ownership or custodianship of valuable things, I doubt that this will change anytime soon. Precisely because of the colonial origins and contexts of institutionalized African art, serious involvement in this community by African and African Diasporic stakeholders is relatively recent and must be encouraged to grow. Then there is a second community: African and Black Diaspora people that have little or nothing to do with the art world community described above but who claim institutionalized African art (the traditional masks, objects, ritual sculptures) as part of their ancestral cultural heritage. This community can be and is often quite passionate about its real and imagined relationship with African art.

Is there a lack of black curators/professors/professionals in this field of research?
Art history, generally, has not always attracted people of color or first-generation students. And there is still not enough of these students in US institutions interested in studying and making a career in ancestral arts of African societies, the sort of art that still form the core of African art collections of museums like Brooklyn. Of those whose are interested in African art, a majority tend to focus on the even newer subfield of modern and contemporary African and African Diaspora art which is not quite the same as African ancestral arts. More work needs to be done to recruit black students in graduate programs that offer African art.

Do you think that the Brooklyn Museum should've let a black curator oversee their African art exhibits?
Kristen Windmuller-Luna who was recently hired by Brooklyn as consulting curator of African art department was my doctoral student here Princeton. When I recruited her to the study with me, I knew she was not black, and I knew that she wanted to be a museum curator after earning her Ph.D. I expected her to secure a good job upon graduation. So, am I thrilled that she was hired by Brooklyn? She is terrific and has an impeccable scholarly portfolio and experience to show for it. If Brooklyn did not hire her as curator in the African department, another first-rate museum would have and should. Do I think that museums should only hire black curators to oversee their African art collections? Absolutely not; or we might as well prevent non-black students from studying or seeking a career in African art. Should museums make sure that they don’t overlook qualified black curators in their curatorial and senior management job search process? Absolutely.

What are your general thoughts on those who are criticizing the museum for hiring a white woman to curate African art? Does this point to a need for diversity within the arts in general?

It is wrong to criticize Brooklyn Museum for hiring a white African art curator; it is right to press museums to diversify their curatorial and management staff. The art world--as constituted by scholars, curators, critics, collectors, dealers, schools, museums, and art administrators--has always been elitist, and that won’t be changing anytime soon, largely because of the long-established entanglement of art, money and power. The diversity of any given society's elite class has direct bearing the diversity of its art world. Still, some museums have done better in diversifying its curatorial staff than others. And I think that Brooklyn has been much more active in this respect than many of its peers in New York and elsewhere in the US. Take a look at its curatorial staff.