Guggenheim appoints the first black deputy director and chief curator in its 60-year-history
According to The New York Times, The Guggenheim recently recruited the first Black deputy director and head curator in the museum’s 60-year history.
The first Black woman to hold the position, Naomi Beckwith was recently chosen deputy director and top curator at the storied Guggenheim Museum.
Beckwith began her career as an associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem and earned a master’s degree from the esteemed Courtauld Institute of Art in London.
She has held curatorial positions at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago since 2011, and in 2018 she was promoted to senior curator.
Beckwith will now take Nancy Spector’s place as the Guggenheim’s new director and curator.
Beckwith’s former work includes multidisciplinary offerings exploring issues of identify and innovative exhibitions showcasing the work of avant-garde artist Howardena Pindell, in “The Freedom Principle:
Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now” and “Homebodies.” She also worked to spearhead a project with British-Nigerian sculptor Yinka Shonibare, exploring race, colonialism and cultural identity.
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Her appointment represents a shift in power for the Guggenheim, who like many institutions, have been reckoning with their past and future amidst a societal call for racial equity, diversity and inclusion.
Beckwith’s experience makes her perfect in this new role, where she will oversee collections, exhibitions, publications, curatorial programs and archives as well as provide strategic direction.
“If you look out over the cultural landscape – particularly in the U.S. – she is quite obviously one of the outstanding leaders of today with a huge potential as well.
She’s very adept at issues of identity and particularly, multidisciplinary art.
We have to think about the Guggenheim’s growth over the next few years, so it needs to be a person with enormous capacity,” said Richard Armstrong, director at the Guggenheim.
Ashley James is the first full-time Black curator the museum has ever employed.
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James, a former Mellon Curatorial Fellow, has also worked at the Yale University Art Gallery and the Studio Museum in Harlem.
Both women’s efforts will contribute to the museum’s future while paving the way for additional Black curators.
“It has to do with the institution’s future. The fact that our board and staff have committed to that kind of reform is encouraging.