In 1987, for a conference at Hunter College in New York, artist Howardena Pindell surveyed the racial demographics of artists receiving exhibitions at museums across the city. Her findings were bleak—the exhibition programs, according to her survey, were almost entirely white. “Black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American artists are, therefore, with a few, very few, exceptions, systematically excluded,” she wrote in her introduction. In tribute to Pindell’s 1987 survey, ARTnews surveyed every solo exhibition held at 30 museums across America over the past decade and broke them down by race. ARTnews’s findings are similar to Pindell’s. Still today, amid increasing calls for diversity in the art world, the exhibition programming at U.S. institutions is, on average, overwhelmingly white.
The Museum of Modern Art in New York has for years been criticized for the whiteness of its programming. Glenn Lowry, the museum’s director, has promised that, when MoMA reopens in October, following a $450 million expansion and an overhaul of its galleries, the museum will place a greater emphasis on diversity. But how has MoMA, along with its sister museum, MoMA PS1, fared over the years?
Between 2010 and 2019, MoMA still trended white. About 61 percent of all solo exhibitions were devoted to white artists.
But the museum has improved somewhat over the past few years. Between 2010 and 2014, 69 percent of solo exhibitions were devoted to white artists, whereas between 2015 and 2019, only 53 percent of solo shows were for white artists.
The greater diversity in programming has coincided with more nonwhite curators being brought on staff. These additions include Michelle Kuo, Ruba Katrib, and Thomas J. Lax.
– Alex Greenberger