Gary Garrels has been senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA) for 20 years. But Garrels became a victim of mob action leading to his resigning because of his “white supremacist” views.
No, Garrels does not hold white supremacist views. He’s a curator of modern art at a museum in San Francisco and has been doing it for 20 years. Could he really hide his white supremacist views that long? Wouldn’t he have let the mask (or hood) slip once or twice over the years?
The answer is only a brain dead moron would believe Garrels was a white supremacist.
“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.
What in the wide, wide world of sports did Garrels say that sent the mob after his scalp?
The petitioners cite few examples of anything even approaching bad behavior from Garrels. Their sole complaint is that he allegedly concluded a presentation on how to diversify the museum’s holdings by saying, “don’t worry, we will definitely still continue to collect white artists.”
He also allegedly used the fighting words “reverse discrimination” to describe the effect of shunning white artists.
As a personal aside, I don’t care for any art less than 100 years old, be it created by a white man, black woman, or a tri-racial, transgender human who changes their gender every day. The entire point of “modern art” appears to be tearing down what people with far more talent and insight spent the last 600 years building up.
But some people like it a lot and it is they who should be worried that the mob has invaded the inner sanctum of the creative arts. These are people who are looking for something to be outraged about and offended by. It has nothing to do with race, justice, or creating a better world. It has everything to do with the raw exercise of power.
And it doesn’t help that victims perform a ritualistic mea culpa so that the mob spares their lives.
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. Garrels promptly resigned.
In a statement announcing his decision to step down, Garrels apologized for the harm his words caused, only slightly disputing the absurd charge against him. ” I do not believe I have ever said that it is important to collect the art of white men,” he said, according to artnet.com. “I have said that it is important that we do not exclude consideration of the art of white men.”
It doesn’t matter what Garrels said. It’s irrelevant. It’s what he didn’t do that matters. He didn’t get on his soapbox and proclaim his allegiance to the mob by swearing never to buy or feature any art from any white male who ever lived.
It’s silly, but at least Garrels would still be employed.