There is an interesting controversy in New York where people are irate that Brooklyn Museum selected a distinguished academic as curator over its African art collection. Kristen Windmuller-Luna, 31, holds a Ph.D. in African art history from Princeton University and has been a lecturer at Columbia University and Metropolitan Museum of Art. That is a pretty stellar resume but people are focused on one other aspect about Windmuller-Luna . . . she is white. Rather than respond that it does not select curators or artists on the basis of the race, the Museum issued a pleading response that it is seeking to address the complaints. However, the complaint is that, no matter how qualified Windmuller-Luna may be, she should have been barred due to her race from consideration.
Commentators had no qualms about objecting entirely on the basis of race — refusing to consider the qualifications of Windmuller-Luna are relevant. The museum tweeted:
“We have been listening closely to the debate about our recent appointments to our curatorial team. We’re listening and we hear you. As we think about ways to engage in this conversation with the care it deserves, we want to assure you that you can count on us, as ever, to continue working deeply on equity within our institution and beyond.”
What precisely does that mean? Is the museum saying that will make future appointments based on race? African American art is precisely that: art. It is a field of study and a genre that transcends race. There is no reason why a white academic would not be the best candidate based on her publications and ideas on curating this collection. Would these same critics object to an African-American being selected as curator over a Dutch art collection or school composed of Whites or Asians or other racial groups? The beauty of art is its transcendence. It joins us all in appreciating the visual expression.