In the late 1960s and early ’70s the front door to the art world cracked open a
bit. The demand for integration challenged museums’ hiring practices, acquisi-
tion priorities, and overall institutional identities. By 1972 there had been enough
exhibitions of work by African American artists that no credible curator could
claim that such art didn’t exist. But in the major museums the inclusion of African
American artists was undertaken as a supplement to existing programs, thus con-
firming rather than challenging hegemonic art historical narratives. In the years
that followed, a new pattern emerged.
First, specific physical spaces were set aside within museums for exhibitions by
“emerging” artists, a category that often included artists of color of all ages who
were perceived as always emerging, but rarely having arrived. The Whitney Mu-
seum of American Art established a Lobby Gallery on the ground floor that fea-
tured a larger proportion of artists of color than the museum showed in its regular
galleries. Between 1971 and 1975 this space presented exhibitions by twelve artists
Likewise, in 1971 the Museum of Modern Art inaugurated its Projects
series in a gallery devoted to small shows of relatively short duration. Sam Gilliam
was featured in the fourth show in the series; later in the 1970s four other U.S.- based
artists of color were exhibited: Liliana Porter, Rafael Ferrer, Nam June Paik, and
And in 1989 the museum presented work by Houston
After the Bearden and Hunt shows of 1971, a twenty- five-year hiatus ensued before
the next major one- person exhibition of work by an African American artist, Roy
DeCarava in
Along with these legitimate, albeit marginal spaces, many museums created
what Benny Andrews acidly termed “kitchen galleries,” that is, spaces located out-
side the formal galleries, often in the museums’ restaurants. The Community
Gallery at the Metropolitan Museum, for example, was situated in the Ju nior Mu-
seum Snack Bar, a cafeteria typically used by visiting school groups as a place to
eat brown- bag lunches. The “members lounge” of the Pent house Restaurant at
the Museum of Modern Art served as a gallery for works from the museum’s Art
Lending Ser vice and featured artists Romare Bearden, Alvin Smith, Jack Whitten,
and Bob Thompson, making this the only place at MoMA where works by African
Previous Page Next Page