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Current and former staff members complained of racial bias at the Getty Museum in an open letter.

Daria Simone Harper
Jul 20, 2020 4:54PM, via Hyperallergic

The Getty Museum in Los Angeles. Image via Flickr.

In an open letter addressed to the Getty Board of Trustees, current and former staff members of the J. Paul Getty Museum, the J. Paul Getty Trust, and the Getty Research Institute called out the institution for its patterns of racism and for its half hearted response to the police killing of George Floyd.

Signed by 167 current staffers, and more than 100 former staff members and visitors, the letter reads, in part:

Racism abounds, from insensitive comments made by management and frequent microaggressions experienced by staff and visitors of color to collecting practices and exhibition programs that glorify the work of white heterosexual cisgender male artists to the exclusion of others.

The letter also addresses the museum’s newly formed DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) council and task forces, stating that members of the council are tasked with “balancing their full-time positions without budget, work release, additional compensation, or benefits.” It goes on to criticize the museum for its refusal to publicly state the phrase “Black Lives Matter,” especially in the wake of nationwide protests against police brutality and racism. President and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust, James Cuno, issued an apology in early June about the oversight.

A current museum employee who wished to remain anonymous told Hyperallergic that the letter was spurred, in part, by a town hall Zoom meeting on June 16th. The source alleges that staff members were muted throughout the meeting’s duration, and were unable to send questions to leadership via the chat thread, reflecting the hierarchical dynamic and lack of transparency at the institution.

This open letter comes as art institutions nationwide are being called to account by current and former staff for their roles in upholding white supremacy. Five senior staffers have resigned from the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) following weeks of upheaval over racism within the museum; the museum has since announced a DEI Plan to be completed by the end of the year. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, the New Orleans Museum of Art, and the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts are also among the institutions facing a backlash and calls for increased racial equity.

Further Reading: Pushed to Address Systemic Racism, Museums Face a Reckoning

Further Reading: Museums Are Becoming More Diverse, but There’s Still Work to Do

Daria Simone Harper
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019