Curator offers a diagnosis for what’s ailing art museums – and how they can recover
by Sebastian Smee
Published November 24 in Washington Post
Excerpt: Helen Molesworth is one of America’s foremost curators. Beloved by the artists she has worked with, she is at once passionately political and solicitous of the field as a whole. She has worked at the Baltimore Museum of Art; the Wexner Center for the Arts in Columbus, OH; Harvard Art Museums; Boston’s Institute of Contemporary Art; and the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art, where she forged a relationship with the Underground Museum.
“The problem with the Baltimore situation is firstly, the museum is not in a situation of financial crisis, and secondly, the objects chosen did not fall within the previously understood set of terms that justify deaccessioning. For instance, if you have four Clyfford Stills, you could think about deaccessioning one. But if you have only one Clyfford Still, and it painted it specifically for your museum, you are breaking a trust with the artist and your public.”
“I don’t believe in this either/or scenario: that you can either have this collection of masterworks or you can have a well-paid staff and a diverse collection. If you want staff diversity, equity, and better wages, then the trustees sitting around the table have to get on board with that. I appreciate that there might not be $55 million sitting around the BMA trustee table right now. But that money exists and things can always be re-budgeted.”