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Activist group calls out Brooklyn Museum’s appointment of white African art curator

The museum has not yet responded to criticism about the “dismal rates of representation” of people of colour among its senior staff

Brooklyn Museum

Days after the Brooklyn Museum announced that it has appointed Kristen Windmuller-Luna to be its new chief curator of African art, the activist group Decolonize This Place published an open letter denouncing the museum’s decision to give the position to a white woman. The letter argues that the decision is “simply not a good look in this day and age–especially on the part of a museum that prides itself on relationships with the diverse communities of Brooklyn”.

The letter argues that this “gathering crisis cannot be confined to a single misstep in recruitment [and] reflects deeper structural flaws within the [Brooklyn Museum’s] culture”. The letter adds that “museum officials need to look beyond demographic diversification per se, notwithstanding the dismal rates of representation of black people and other communities of colour in higher-rank positions within cultural institutions”.

The letter calls for the “decolonisation” of the museum, urging that stakeholders diversify curatorial staff and that the museum review its inventory of colonial-era African and Native American objects with “a view to settle the long-pursued claims to reparations and repatriation”, among other items. At the time of posting, the museum had not responded to a request for comment.

A study conducted in 2015 by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with the American Alliance of Museums found that minorities made up 28% of staff in US museums, and that 84% of curators, conservators, educators and “leaders” were white, with just 4% being African American. Another study conducted by the American Alliance of Museums last year found that around 20% of museum employees are minorities.