At the Whitney, Fred Wilson Draws the Color Line

THE DAILY PIC: A perfect portrait of who stands where in our great museums.


THE DAILY PIC (#1305, Whitney edition): This last image in my week-long stop at the newly enlarged Whitney Museum of American Art is a great reminder that, whatever its successes, there’s still room for improvement in museums, and in America. This is “Guarded View”, a piece from 1991 in which Fred Wilson dressed dark-skinned mannequins in the uniforms of the security guards at four New York museums. The work provides a telling and accurate portrait of the cultural segregation that’s still in force in the U.S. As Michelle Obama pointed out in her speech at the new Whitney’s grand opening: “There are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, ‘Well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood.’ ” Unfortunately, in purely statistical terms, those kids aren’t wrong: I barely spotted more than a couple of African Americans in the Whitney’s crowded galleries one recent afternoon – except for among the security guards, including, ironically, the one watching over Wilson’s piece. But also – as I hope this Daily Pic makes clear – among its most probing recent artists. (Photo by Lucy Hogg)

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