Guggenheim’s Top Curator Is Out as Inquiry Into Basquiat Show Ends


An independent investigation into how the Guggenheim Museum handled last year’s exhibition on the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat has concluded there is no evidence that the show’s guest curator, Chaédria LaBouvier, who is Black, “was subject to adverse treatment on the basis of her race,” the museum announced on Thursday.

The museum simultaneously announced that Nancy Spector, the artistic director and chief curator, who is white, was leaving “to pursue other curatorial endeavors and to finish her doctoral dissertation.” She has spent 34 years at the Guggenheim and has been publicly criticized by Ms. LaBouvier.

The announcement comes at a time when many cultural institutions are defending themselves against charges of racism and have committed to reform. The Black Lives Matter Movement has raised awareness in the art world about inequity in hiring, programming and governance.

The Guggenheim’s three-month investigation, conducted by the law firm Kramer Levin, was prompted by criticism from employees who sent a letter to management in June, describing “an inequitable work environment that enables racism, white supremacy, and other discriminatory practices.”

Ms. Spector said in a statement, “The Guggenheim is stronger than ever before, and incredibly well-positioned to emerge successfully from the challenges presented by 2020.”

She added that she was “pleased” that the independent investigation had “sought out the facts and confirmed what I have known from the start — which is that I did not treat the guest curator of ‘Basquiat’s “Defacement”: The Untold Story’ adversely on the basis of race.”

The museum said the investigators had reviewed more than 15,000 documents and conducted interviews with current and former Guggenheim employees and others affiliated with the institution.

Ms. LaBouvier could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ms. Spector has spent most of her career at the Guggenheim, except for a brief stint as deputy director and chief curator of the Brooklyn Museum that concluded in 2017. She explained her return at the time as “realizing that it’s an opportunity I didn’t want to pass up given the number of years I’d already committed to the Guggenheim.”

The authors of the Guggenheim’s finalized diversity initiative, including eight employees (at least four of whom identify as Black) and an outside consultant, urged that exhibitions include more representation from historically marginalized groups.

The museum is projecting a $15 million deficit this year because of the pandemic, and plans to fund its diversity initiatives with contributions from trustees and reallocated money from its current budget.



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