The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) in Wisconsin has been accused of ‘institutional racist violence’ by Black female artists.
The Black artists were participating in the Wisconsin Triennial, a regional art exhibition organized by the MMoCA. The exhibition opened in April this year and is expected to run till October. The triennial has been held for the past 4 decades. This year, the special focus was on Black women artists in the region. The exhibition is titled ‘Ain’t I A Woman?” and curated by Fatima Lester.
In an open letter, first published on August 19, the artists accused MMoCA of “shameful mistreatment of the Black artists, contractors, and staffers throughout the exhibition.” It was signed by the collective artists participating in the Wisconsin Triennial 2022. Since then, about half of the 23 artists participating in the exhibition have already withdrawn their works. Meanwhile, the museum has denied the allegations and called them “unfounded”.
The accusations came after a work by artist Lilada Gee was vandalized in June. While the work was installed in the museum in semi-finished condition, it was defaced with glitter and paint available within the museum. The artist claimed it was a racially-motivated attack, while the museum maintained that it was done by children whose family misunderstood the work to be an interactive piece. In July, the work was removed, and the area of the museum roped off. The letter claimed that Gee and other artists did not receive any support from the museum after the incident.
This was not the first time Gee faced a hostile environment in the Triennial. In March, during the installation of her work at MMoCA, she and another Black person were harassed by a white employee from a neighboring museum. The white employee was later reportedly terminated.