“Philip Guston Now,” a major retrospective of the New York School
painter that was originally scheduled to open this past summer at the National Gallery of Art
in Washington, D.C., before rescheduling due to COVID-19, has been delayed until 2024 over concerns about the exhibition’s content—namely, Guston
’s paintings and drawings depicting hooded members of the Ku Klux Klan.
In a joint statement
, the directors of the four institutions presenting the show—the National Gallery of Art, Tate Modern
, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston
, and Museum of Fine Arts, Houston—said they would delay their successive showings of the exhibition “until a time at which we think that the powerful message of social and racial justice that is at the center of Philip Guston’s work can be more clearly interpreted.” The letter cited recent racial justice movements, as well as the global COVID-19 crisis, as motivating factors in the decision.
The exhibition is slated to bring together some 125 paintings and 70 drawings to offer a full picture of the late artist’s career, stretching from his Abstract Expressionist
canvases through his mid-career pivot to figuration. The content that led to the exhibition’s delay appears to be Guston’s depictions of hooded, Ku Klux Klan-esque figures, a motif that figured prominently in some of the artist’s work beginning in the 1930s.
“We feel it is necessary to reframe our programming and, in this case, step back, and bring in additional perspectives and voices to shape how we present Guston's work to our public,” the joint statement read.
In response to the exhibition’s delay, Musa Mayer, Guston’s daughter, said in a statement quoted by the New York Times