Museums have the power to support artists not just by giving them exhibitions, but by acquiring their work, as well. By embracing artwork by a diverse group of practitioners, museums can create a more equitable public understanding of art and artists. Done right, this helps guard against the case of under-recognized artists who don’t get their due as a result (most often) of their gender, ethnicity, or socioeconomic status. When future generations think of the art of the early 21st century, they’ll conceive a group that extends far beyond white men. Collecting institutions have the power to push this reality even further.
Carin Kuoni, the director of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics at the New School, adds that it’s no longer sufficient to just show art by a varied group of individuals. “There is an expectation that museums and cultural institutions have to change structurally and have to be reflective of the constituents they serve and the programs they deliver,” she says. Everything about a museum, from its governing board to its shows, should reflect the same values.
Similarly, Bishop writes that “representation of the other is not enough.” An institution must address societal issues and movements in its displays and its educational offerings. She praises the Reina Sofía’s free, intensive seminars on critical practices and workshops, which teach teenagers how to view the museum itself—not just the art inside. (That museums are the venue for and creator of such forums designed for their own critique is an ironic problem that, probably, has no real solution.)