One of the leading art curators in the nation resigned from his job after allegedly stating at a recent staff meeting, “Don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.”
Gary Garrels, senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA), was targeted by a petition that stated, “Gary’s removal from SFMOMA is non-negotiable. Considering his lengthy tenure at this institution, we ask just how long have his toxic white supremacist beliefs regarding race and equity directed his position curating the content of the museum?”
“The petitioners cite few examples of anything even approaching bad behavior from Garrels,” wrote Robby Soave at Reason, adding, “Their sole complaint is that he allegedly concluded a presentation on how to diversify the museum’s holdings by saying, ‘don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.’”
Artnet.com reported, “At the meeting, Garrels said that the museum could not avoid collecting the work of white men, which would amount to ‘reverse discrimination.’” Although he ultimately stepped down, Garrels protested, “I do not believe I have ever said that it is important to collect the art of white men. I have said that it is important that we do not exclude consideration of the art of white men.”
Garrels also wrote, “I want to offer my personal and sincere apology to every one of you. I realized almost as soon as I used the term ‘reverse discrimination’ that this is an offensive term and was an extremely poor choice of words on my part. I am very sorry at how upsetting these words were to many staff.”
“Garrels recently became the target of criticism after it emerged that he (as well as the museum’s director) had received no-interest home loans from the museum, which some saw as emblematic of its unequal treatment of employees. (Garells’s loan was worth $500,000.),” Artnet.com noted.
But Garrels also auctioned off a Rothko painting for $50.1 million to fund work by female artists, artists of color, and LGBTQ+ artists.
“Garrels served as chief curator in the department of drawings and curator in the department of painting and sculpture at The Museum of Modern Art, New York. Numerous shows he curated for the MOMA include the acclaimed retrospectives of Brice Marden (2006) and Dieter Roth (2004). Moreover, he had tenures as senior curator at the WalkerArtCenter, Minneapolis and as director of programs at the Dia Art Foundation, New York,” FlashArt reported in 2008.
SFMOMA was in the news in early June: “A former employee, Taylor Brandon, has accused the museum of silencing her criticism in a comment on its image of a Glenn Ligon work SFMOMA posted over the weekend. The museum disabled comments on the post after Brandon called it a ‘cop out,’ arguing the institution has not done enough to support black employees internally and naming some of its upper management. The museum has since reopened comments on the post and added its own statement apologizing, but maintains that Brandon’s post violated Instagram’s terms of service by naming individuals,” Artnet reported.
A prominent museum curator resigned after he was accused of "white supremacy" for saying that he'd still collect some art from white men. This is what constitutes "white supremacy" in our country of lunatics. https://t.co/bzcXxE36jk
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) July 14, 2020