Museums Need to Step Into the Future
By Darren Walker
America’s museums are more than repositories of ancient Greek statues and Renaissance paintings. They are guardians of a fading social and demographic order. On Thursday, Warren Kanders resigned from the board of the Whitney Museum of Art, after protests over his company’s sale of tear gas grenades that were reportedly used on asylum seekers. His case reveals the extent to which museums have become contested spaces in a rapidly-changing country.
On one side of the crossfire are trustees who benefit from a distorted economic system that protects and promotes inequality…On the other side are people whom the system excludes and exploits. An increasingly diverse viewing public, and growing protest movements, are calling for installations and institutions that represent a broader cross-section of America. They demand museums serve more than the interests of the elite.
Museums find themselves in the same struggle tearing society apart — a struggle fueled by worsening inequality of every kind.
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