The Underground Museum, an institution in Los Angeles’s Arlington Heights neighbourhood that was founded in 2012 by the late painter Noah Davis and his wife, sculptor Karon Davis, announced on 15 March that it will close indefinitely and its co-directors, Meg Onli and Cristina Pacheco, are leaving.
Onli, a former associate curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, had joined the Underground Museum full-time in December. Pacheco had become co-director alongside Onli after serving as the museum’s chief operating officer and co-interim director since 2020. Pacheco had also been on the museum’s board since 2015. In a statement, Karon Davis commented on how "hard it has been for our family to let go enough to allow Meg and Cristina to do their jobs". Requests for comments and more information had not been returned at press time.
The museum had recently opened a major exhibition of paintings by Noah Davis, versions of which had previously been on view at David Zwirner’s galleries in New York and London. In a statement posted to the museum’s Instagram account and website, Karon Davis said her family “were not able to fully grieve [Noah’s] loss privately or take the time needed to heal” following his death from a rare form of cancer in 2015, aged 32, adding that, “This was made all too clear when Noah’s paintings returned to the space for the first time since his passing.”
In the years following Noah Davis’s death, his work gained increasingly widespread acclaim and became very sought-after in the art market. In January 2020, David Zwirner opened its first exhibition in collaboration with Davis’s estate. At the December 2021 edition of Art Basel in Miami Beach, the gallery sold a Davis painting for $1.4m.
Karon Davis’s career has likewise taken off in the years since her husband’s death. A sculptor known for crafting incredibly affecting figures and entire life-size scenes, she won a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award in 2017. Her solo exhibition with Jeffrey Deitch, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished, was one of New York City's most buzzed-about gallery shows of 2021.
Her statement on the museum’s website cites the compounding stresses not only of growing attention but also the Covid-19 pandemic and racial justice movements. “For now, we ask that everyone give us the space and privacy needed to understand the future of the museum and to heal individually and collectively,” she writes. “We simply do not have any answers right now.”