“… for saying he would still collect art from white men”
Until last week, Gary Garrels was senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). He resigned his position after museum employees circulated a petition that accused him of racism and demanded his immediate ouster.
“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?”
This accusation—that Garrels’ choices as an art curator are guided by white supremacist beliefs—is a very serious one. Unsurprisingly, it does not stand up to even minimal scrutiny.
The petitioners cite few examples of anything even approaching bad behavior from Garrels. Their sole complaint is that he allegedly concluded a presentation on how to diversify the museum’s holdings by saying, “don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.”
“After hearing of events that occurred at an All-Staff Meeting on Tuesday, July 7, 2020 we call for Gary Garrels to resign or be removed from his position as Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. 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. When pressed on the museum’s collecting policies he has repeatedly said some variation of “don’t worry, we will continue to collect white male artists.” 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.” This has been documented.”
“Vitriolic terms like these are damaging and counter-productive to bringing the attention and compassion needed in SFMOMA and the Bay Area’s most vulnerable communities. Beliefs and actions like this continue to stain our immediate communities and have recently become more pronounced and executed with a false sense of impunity, such as here. There must be accountability for this type of behavior.”