Artforum, 12.01.2018

The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) is launching a diversity-minded commission program for artists to create site-specific works in the museum’s lobby with funds from a gift by philanthropists Robert E. Meyerhoff and Rheda Becker. The New York–based artist Mickalene Thomas—best known for her rhinestone-studded paintings, collages, and photography, which explore the layers of selves in the identities of black women and the constructs of canonical Western art history—has been chosen as the first participant. She will make a new work that will go on view next fall. The funds will also establish a fellowship for which a curator will be selected to work with the commissioned artist and will receive a $40,000 stipend and mentorship from staffers at the museum.

“The question that occupies me is: How do you remake the faith in a public institution in such a way that far more diverse populations see the museum as a welcoming environment?” said BMA director Christopher Bedford in an interview with Artnews.

In June of this year, as part of an effort to diversify its collection, the BMA deaccessioned works by white male artists and used the proceeds from the sale of seven works—by Andy Warhol, Robert Rauschenberg, and Franz Kline, among others—to acquire twenty-three new works by underrepresented artists. “Museums are entering a new era of heightened consciousness of incomplete histories and biases that must be addressed,” said Bedford at the time. “In acquiring works by the most significant black and female artists working in the United States, as well as pivotal works from Korea, China, Mexico, and Japan, we hope to not only methodically address previous omissions in our collection but also broaden the canon and historical narrative told through art.”