Art | February 16, 2021 6:00 am

Offensive Indianapolis Museum of Art Job Posting Prompts Apology

The controversy has affected an upcoming exhibition as well

Indianapolis Museum of Art Welcome Center
The Indianapolis Museum of Art Welcome Center.
Mike Steele - Indianapolis Museum of Art, CC BY 2.0

Over the last few years, a number of art museums have wrestled with questions relating to race and racism in contemporary America. The controversy around the 2017 Whitney Biennial is one example; the postponement of a Philip Guston retrospective is another. The latest museum to find itself in the midst of a heated debate about race and art is the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields — though in this case, the controversy has nothing to do with the art in its galleries.

Instead, the museum came under fire for a job listing seeking a new director. As The New York Times reports, the listing stressed the need to attract a more diverse group of museum-goers while simultaneously retaining the museum’s “traditional, core, white art audience.”

It’s not hard to see why this didn’t go over well — or why the phrase in question was changed to “traditional core art audience.” The museum’s chief executive, Charles L. Venable, said that the original version of the phrase was intentional.

“I deeply regret that the choice of language clearly has not worked out to mirror our overall intention of building our core art audience by welcoming more people in the door,” he said.

The controversy over the job listing has already had an adverse effect on the museum’s artistic partnerships. Malina Simone Jeffers and Alan Bacon, guest curators of DRIP: Indy’s #BlackLivesMatter Street Mural, released a statement stepping down from the project.

“We have asked Newfields to revisit this exhibition to include an apology to all artists involved, the opportunity for the 18 visual artists to show their other, personal works with appropriate compensation, and an intentional strategy from Newfields to display more works from more Black artists in perpetuity,” they said in their statement.

As the article in the Times points out, this is not the first time the museum has found itself in the center of a controversy involving race — making for a worrying pattern of events.

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