Mickalene Thomas: The Baltimore Museum of Art Invited Its Guards to Curate Their Latest Exhibition

Taylor Dafoe, Artnet News, March 21, 2022

Artnet News


“Guarding the Art” features artworks from the BMA’s collection selected by 17 members of its security team. It opens this weekend.


They spend more time looking at the museum’s walls than anybody else—and now, for the first time, they’re deciding what art will hang there. 


For the Baltimore Museum of Art’s (BMA) newest exhibition, the security guards have taken on curatorial duties. The show, “Guarding the Art,” features 25 pieces from the BMA’s collection—including works by Louise Bourgeois, Grace Hartigan, and Mickalene Thomas—selected by 17 members of the institution’s security team. It opens to the public this Sunday, March 27.


The aim of the show, conceived by BMA board member Amy Elias more than a year ago, is to enliven the museum’s presentation—and invite some new perspectives along the way.

“‘Guarding the Art,’ is more personal than typical museum shows,” Elias said in a statement, since “it gives visitors a unique opportunity to see, listen and learn the personal histories and motivations of guest curators. In this way, the exhibition opens a door for how a visitor might feel about the art, rather than just providing a framework for how to think about the art.”


To choose the works for the exhibition, the guards began meeting over video chat with members of the museum’s curatorial team last year. They were face with some large tasks: scouring the museum’s collection, narrowing down their selections, writing wall texts and catalogue entries, devising lighting schemes—in short, designing and staging an exhibition from tip to toe. (Each participant was paid for their curatorial work through a grant from the Pearlstone Family Foundation.)


“We were kind of nervous because these are serious folks and this is what they do,” said Dominic Mallari, who has worked at the BMA since 2018. “But it turned out that it was very welcoming and inviting."

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