Museum Curator forced to resign
over “toxic white supremacist beliefs”!
Gary Garrels was the curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Art. After a presentation about the acquisition of works by artists of color, Garrels had the temerity to utter, “Don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.”
At an earlier panel, after the moderator had stated, “some people would say you just have to stop collecting men for a while” he offensively argued, “I just don’t agree with that. That’s an alternative, different kind of profiling.”
Still worse, he has boldly asserted, “To say that we will not collect another white artist, I absolutely do not agree with,” and callied it “reverse discrimination.”
After Garrel’s most recent case of presuming to defend white males [who need no defense, obviously] employees at the museum produced a petition demanding his immediate dismissal. It went a little something like this:
“Gary’s removal from SFMOMA is non-negotiable… Considering his lengthy tenure at this institution, we ask just how long have his toxic white supremacist beliefs regarding race and equity directed his position curating the content of the museum?”
“As Senior Curator, he represents the museum in tone and content. Through actions and words, Gary has been obtuse (at best) to the point of offense or deliberately racist (at worst) in his retorts to criticism… Amongst SFMOMA staff as well as in public view, Gary has used and continued to use white supremacist and racist language such as ‘reverse racism.'”
Its wasn’t just museum workers who were appalled by Garrel’s stunning bigotry, the director of the museum and the chief curator clarified their opposition to his statements:
“They are out of sync with the difficult and absolutely essential work that we are currently doing across the organization, and within the Curatorial Division, toward a more equitable museum.
The museum of today doesn’t just showcase the best art, its much more difficult and essential task is to create equity in the museum. Equity is distinct from equality in that the latter still hints at the discredited notion of meritocracy — with equal opportunity, which is no guarantee — whereas equity insures equal representation within the museum space. While equality could stop at not excluding anyone based on race, etc., equity goes much further by insuring that the museum features the art of the people with the desired DNA…
Additionally, when choosing art from among those who do not belong to the white majority, it is best to select artworks which promote the values of inclusivity, equity, tolerance, and anti-racism.
While Garrels may have championed the works of people of color (Kara Walker, Doris Salcedo, Kerry James Marshall, and Glenn Ligon], and sold off a Mark Rothko painting to buy the work of non-white males, this doesn’t excuse his heinous reluctance to shut out white male artists completely. Garrels apparently saw the grotesque error of his ways and apologized, especially for using the phrase “reverse discrimination”, of which there is no such thing possible.
“I want to offer my personal and sincere apology to every one of you. I realized almost as soon as I used the term ‘reverse discrimination’ that this is an offensive term and was an extremely poor choice of words on my part. I am very sorry at how upsetting these words were to many staff.”
He also wrote in a letter:
“I do not believe I have ever said that it is important to collect the art of white men. I have said that it is important that we do not exclude consideration of the art of white men… I believe that true diversity and the fight for real and meaningful equality is the important battle of our time. I will contribute what I can in any way that I can to reach this goal… I realize in the current climate, I can no longer effectively work at SFMOMA”
How dare he suggest that white male artists not be absolutely excluded from being collected by the museum! How dare he assert such a policy “discriminates” against white males, or insinuate that continuing to collect the work of their biological group is in any way, or to any degree “important”!
Garrels’s reluctance to categorically eliminate candidates due to their race, if they happen to be white, is a clear-cut case of toxic white supremacy, and some are wondering if the consequences have been too lenient.
While we can all agree that art is important in society, especially for an art museum, in our time the goal of overcoming bigotry takes precedence, and the best way to achieve that is to showcase the artwork of women and brown-skinned people, and as much as possible to minimize the presence and representation of white men in the art world.
While some may still maintain that we should judge art by what we see, looking at art is overrated when it comes to visual art, and in today’s world it is much more relevant to consider who authored the piece and the context of how it functions socially. Does the work reflect the right voice with the right sociopolitical message in line with a progressive cultural revolution? Or does it merely uphold the status quo, or is it even worse, the kind of degenerate or pernicious work white males are prone to hashing out?
We must stand up against hatred, racism, and discrimination of all kinds, directed at anyone and everyone, no matter who they are, and we must promote and empower all peoples and cultures!*
*with the exception of white men, "whiteness", and western culture.