Art Market

SFMOMA employees accused the institution of racism and censorship in an open letter.

Daria Simone Harper
Jun 24, 2020 5:40PM, via ARTnews

The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. Image via Flickr.

A group of current and former employees of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) have criticized the museum for what they consider to be deep institutional inequities, citing recent layoffs and the censoring of a former staff member on social media. The open letter, which includes input from more than 12 former workers, calls for changes in leadership and an artist boycott.

Yesterday, some former SFMOMA staffers posted a letter to Instagram in support of Taylor Brandon, a Black staff member in the institution’s communication department whose comment calling out SFMOMA’s response to the recent Black Lives Matter protests on the museum’s Instagram page was censored. Her comment, which was posted last month, stated that museum leadership has a history of “using black pain for their own financial gain.” It was swiftly deleted by the museum.

SFMOMA director Neal Benezra has since made a public apology for the removal of Brandon’s comment. Benezra wrote in a statement quoted by ARTnews: “The decision to limit comments was not consistent with our values as a museum. I take full responsibility for the museum’s actions.” Brandon, the sole Black communications staff member at SFMOMA until April, recently launched an organization called No Neutral Alliance. Spurred in part by the current events at SFMOMA, Brandon started the alliance with the intention of holding museums responsible for their unjust treatment of Black employees, artists, and supporters.

This letter comes as cultural institutions across the country face demands from current and former employees for increased diversity and inclusion in the workplace, as well as long term commitments to examining their institutional role in perpetuating systemic racism. Earlier this week, curators at the Guggenheim Museum issued a letter to museum leadership demanding more equitable practices within the institution. Employees at the Jewish Museum in New York have also addressed a letter to museum director Claudia Gould making similar demands.

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

Daria Simone Harper