These Museums Are Fighting to Bring More Inclusivity to Art
If museums aren’t showcasing art where visitors can see themselves, are they failing their audiences?
America’s art museums have a diversity problem.
A study published last year in PLOS One found that 85.4% of artists represented in U.S. art museums are white, and nearly 76.7% are white men. When it comes to race, Asian artists are the second most represented, but they only constitute 9%, followed by Latinx at 2.8%, and African Americans at 1.2%. Art museums are sometimes stereotyped as being “boring,” and there’s a reason for that: Many are filled with art and artists of the 17th-19th centuries, and while there’s merit for studying and viewing these works, too often they depict a singular perspective by a specific type of artist — one who is white and male.
The art and artists in museums don’t accurately reflect the racial and gender makeup of visitors that museums are supposed to serve, so it’s no surprise that 78.9% of art museum visitors in 2008 were white, whereas only 8.6% of visitors were Hispanic and 5.8% were African American.
If museums aren’t showcasing art in which visitors can see themselves, are they failing their audiences? Perhaps this question can be answered in Baltimore, where two museums are upgrading the art museum experience to serve the needs of a community and nation through representation.
The art museums of Baltimore
In 2018, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announced it was selling off priceless art by the likes of Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg to create a fund to buy contemporary art by women-identifying artists and people of color, especially African Americans. A year later, they announced that by 2020 they would be acquiring art exclusively by women-identifying artists.
These radical initiatives were part of a new mission by the BMA, which aims to focus on “socially relevant, cutting-edge acquisitions, exhibitions, and programs [that] will lead the way both locally and globally.” The BMA’s goal was to be “bold, brave, and essential,” and “the most relevant publicly engaged museum in the United States and a dynamic model for all others.” So far…