Promoting equity and diversity is an issue many museums and art institutions have struggled with since their founding. However, in recent years, some museums have made attempts to advocate for more representation of historically marginalized groups within their permanent collections, staff, and special exhibitions. This includes great attention to work by women artists and women artists of color. According to The Washington Post, over the past decade, only 11 percent of art acquired by American art museums was made by women artists. The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) hopes to change this with their most recent initiative to remedy the gender imbalance within their institution.
Chief curator of the BMA Asma Naeem vows that for the entire fiscal year of 2020, the Baltimore Museum of Art will acquire art only created by women for their permanent collection in hopes of diversifying their primarily white, male collection, and encourage other museums to do the same. Naeem stated that she is not aware of any other museums taking such concrete and radical steps to increase overall equality in this way. Dubbed the “2020 Vision”, the museum’s initiative is not only concerned with artworks in the permanent collection and acquisitions, but, as decisions made by a predominantly female staff, is a nod to the significance of hiring women into museum staff positions whose administrative decisions and presence can have major impacts on the goals and missions of organizations historically run by white men. According to Elissa Blount Moorhead, one of the artists featured as part of the initiative, “I’m hoping that all of us can start to think about how patriarchy and hierarchy has really diminished people’s interest in museums and cultural centers.” The BMA’s director Christopher Bedford also said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun, “To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical.”
Photo Courtesy of architectmagazine.com
This initiative has attracted enormous attention from major news outlets, many of which have praised the museum for their recent decisions and the new programming that lies ahead, including two special exhibitions: a selection of video works by South African Artist Candice Breitz, that touches on the lives of immigrants and sex workers; and a retrospective of work by the painter Joan Mitchell. These monumental strides indicate a step in the right direction when it comes to equality in the art world and we applaud the Baltimore Museum of Art on behalf of underrepresented artists everywhere, in hopes that this changes the future of the art world for the better. We hope that this is not just a fashionable trend, but a long-term strategy that will see more under-represented groups find deserved space within the institution’s collections and administrative staff.