Queens Museum Director Laura Raicovich Resigns Amid Political Differences With Board

Raicovich's activism for immigrants and other progressive causes clashed with the museum's conservative board members.

Scarcely three months after she was profiled in the New York Times under the headline “The Director Is as Political as the Art,” Queens Museum director Laura Raicovich has left the institution. Her departure, after three years at the helm, comes as a result of differences with the institution’s board over her advocacy for progressive causes, reports the Times.

“I am deeply grateful to the board for the opportunity to imagine the museum as a very vital, convivial, and inviting commons for art, ideas, and civics,” said Raicovich in a statement to artnet News. “I wish the board, staff, and everyone who has participated in the life of the museum well. As the daughter of an immigrant to Queens, Queens Museum and the borough will always hold a very special place in my heart.”

The museum has met controversy under Raicovich’s tenure. In August 2017, it canceled an event organized by the Israeli government to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the nation’s founding. The museum reinstated it after accusations of anti-Semitism, Hyperallergic reported at the time.

Countless artists and other art-world denizens have for decades spoken out on political issues, and Donald Trump’s administration has generated an exceptionally strong outpouring. But Raicovich was an exceptionally strong example of a museum administrator who seemed to fearlessly break the mold of the director who tiptoes around board members and potential donors who may hold more conservative views.

In a New York borough known for the diversity of its population, among whom some 165 languages are spoken, Raicovich was a champion of immigrants and envisioned the museum as a kind of sanctuary space. Some five percent of the museum’s staff are so-called “Dreamers”—undocumented immigrants who were brought to the US as children. The exhibition “Real People. Real Lives. Women Immigrants of New York” will open on February 17. Also on the calendar is a solo exhibition by the socially activist artist Mel Chin.

The museum closed on January 20, 2017, in solidarity with progressive activists organizing an “art strike” in protest of Trump’s inauguration, to objections from some board members. It re-opened to host an event for activists preparing for marches on January 21.

Before taking over the directorship of the Queens Museum in 2015, Raicovich had served as director of global initiatives at the New York public art organization Creative Time and, for a decade, as deputy director of New York’s Dia Art Foundation.

Raicovich says that she plans to continue advancing her political concerns outside of the Queens Museum. “There are so many big things that art and culture have to contend with that are so wrong in the world,” she told the Times. “That’s where my focus and energy needs to be, and at the end of the day, I just felt that my vision and that of the board weren’t in enough alignment to get that done.”

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