Maya Salam, New York Times, April 6, 2018
A recent decision by the Brooklyn Museum to hire a white person as an African art consulting curator has prompted opposition on social media and from an anti-gentrification activist group that argues the selection perpetuated “ongoing legacies of oppression.”
In response to a letter from the group that stated its concerns, Anne Pasternak, the director of the Brooklyn Museum, said in a statement on Friday that the museum “unequivocally” stood by its selection of Kristen Windmuller-Luna for the position.
“We were deeply dismayed when the conversation about this appointment turned to personal attacks on this individual,” Ms. Pasternak said. She also extolled the expertise of Dr. Windmuller-Luna, calling her an “extraordinary candidate with stellar qualifications.”
Dr. Windmuller-Luna, 31, has Ph.D. and M.A. degrees from Princeton, and a bachelor’s degree in the history of art from Yale. She has worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Princeton University Art Museum and the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, N.Y. Her appointment to the Brooklyn Museum was announced late last month.
In its letter earlier this week, the activist group Decolonize This Place called the museum’s selection of Dr. Windmuller-Luna “tone-deaf” and said that “no matter how one parses it, the appointment is simply not a good look in this day and age.”
The group said the appointment was not a surprise, though, citing “pervasive structures of white supremacy in the art field.” The letter called on the museum to address public concern surrounding the decision.
Marla C. Berns, a director at the Fowler Museum at the University of California, Los Angeles, which highlights art and material culture from Africa, among other regions, said on Friday that there were not a lot of curators and academics of African-American or African descent who specialized in African arts.
“Graduate departments seek diversity in making decisions about admissions,” she said, “but the pools of candidates still remain predominantly white.”