The petition from former employees stated: “Gary’s removal from SFMOMA is non-negotiable”
Gary Garrels has been associated with the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art on and off since 1993. He is regarded as one of the best art curators in the country.
He recently resigned from his position at the museum when the cancel culture mob came for him.
During a meeting, and a discussion about curating work from artists of color, Garrels noted that the museum would continue to curate work from white artists as well. Shortly after that, a petition was launched by former employees calling for his ouster.
Julia Halperin first reported at ArtNet:
Gary Garrels, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s Longtime Chief Curator, Resigns Amid Staff Uproar
Earlier this week, Garrels was confronted by an employee at an all-staff Zoom meeting about previous comments he had made regarding the museum’s collecting priorities. (In a widely shared Instagram post on the account @changethemuseum, an employee recounted that the senior curator, who is white, ended a presentation about new acquisitions by artists of color by saying, “Don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.”)
At the meeting, Garrels said that the museum could not avoid collecting the work of white men, which would amount to “reverse discrimination.” Soon afterward, a group of former employees who have been advocating for change at the museum created a petition calling for his resignation, which had been signed by 180 people as of publication time.
“Gary’s removal from SFMOMA is non-negotiable,” the petition’s authors wrote. “Considering his lengthy tenure at this institution, we ask just how long have his toxic white supremacist beliefs regarding race and equity directed his position curating the content of the museum?”
In his email to staff on Saturday, Garrels said, “I want to offer my personal and sincere apology to every one of you. I realized almost as soon as I used the term ‘reverse discrimination’ that this is an offensive term and was an extremely poor choice of words on my part. I am very sorry at how upsetting these words were to many staff.”
Here’s the Instagram post with the petition:
View this post on Instagram
At the SFMOMA staff meeting this week, Senior Curator Gary Garrels was asked to respond to his documented earlier comments about collecting white male artists. His response included violent language claiming “reverse racism.” Gary must be removed from his job, effective immediately. @SFMOMA, Gary’s words are in direct conflict with your stated mission. If you are committed to anti-racist work, the choice is clear. Link to sign a letter in support of Gary’s removal in our bio.
Robby Soave of Reason notes the severity and absurdity of the accusations made against Garrels:
“Gary’s removal from SFMOMA is non-negotiable,” read the petition. “Considering his lengthy tenure at this institution, we ask just how long have his toxic white supremacist beliefs regarding race and equity directed his position curating the content of the museum?”
This accusation—that Garrels’ choices as an art curator are guided by white supremacist beliefs—is a very serious one. Unsurprisingly, it does not stand up to even minimal scrutiny.
The petitioners cite few examples of anything even approaching bad behavior from Garrels…
You might think that one of the most prominent art curators in the country—with 20 years of experience at SFMOMA—would be able to weather such a pathetically weak accusation of racism. But in the current cultural moment, it appears not.
We are witnessing a cultural revolution. Many of the people carrying it out, likely lack an understanding of where, when, and why this has happened before now. History is being repeated by people who don’t know history.
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