Naomi Beckwith Paves the Way For Others As The Guggenheim’s First Black Deputy Director & Chief Curator
Photo Credit: Nathan Keay / MCA Chicago
Make way for The Guggenheim’s first Black deputy and chief curator.
According to The New York Times, Naomi Beckwith is now the chief curator and deputy director at the historic Guggenheim Museum, an appointment that makes her the first Black woman to hold the title.
Beckwith got her start as an associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem. In 2011, she began holding curatorial posts at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago before ultimately becoming senior curator in 2018.
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Her former work includes spearheading a project with British-Nigerian sculptor Yinka Shonibare that explored colonialism, cultural identity, and race. Now, she will replace former director and curator of the Guggenheim, Nancy Spector.
In this historic new role, Beckwith’s position designates a shift in power for the museum which like many institutions has not always made space when it comes to diversity, inclusion and racial equity.
“I would not have taken this position if I did not feel the museum wasn’t doing that healing work, which they are,” said Beckwith, reports The New York Times. “What I heard clearly from Richard is they are doing the work themselves. They’re simply looking for a partner in that…We preserve art history for future audiences. Now it’s clear that a museum’s job is not to just preserve art history, but to preserve multiple art histories.”
Recently, the Guggenheim hired its first full-time Black curator, Ashley James. She has also done work at the Studio Museum in Harlem along with the Yale University Art Gallery.
Both women speak volumes to the museum’s future and will serve as a stepping stone for other Black curators looking to see themselves reflected in the industry.
“It’s about the future of the institution,” said Richard Armstrong, director at Guggenheim, according to The New York Times. “What’s promising is that our staff and our board have committed to that kind of change. So it’s not Naomi alone; it’s Naomi in concert with a large group of people.”