“ReFrame” – Harvard Art Museums launches a project to diversify the offerings


Kehinde Wiley, “Portrait of Asia-Imani, Gabriella-Esnae and Kaya Palmer”, 2020 PHOTO: Todd-White Art Photography

Harvard Art Museums launched the initial phase of their “ReFrame” project on September 4. “ReFrame” aims to examine the purpose of a local and global art museum and how to use this platform to tell the most inclusive stories possible. With new acquisitions and a remix of the exhibition space, the museum will aim to showcase a more diverse group of artists.

“The initial conversations grew out of the turmoil we all experienced in late last spring and summer with the murder of George Floyd and the difficult conversations that followed about race in America and around the world,” he said. said Soyoung Lee, chief curator of Landon and Lavinia Clay at Harvard Art Museums. “In what ways can we contribute not only to culture, but to broader conversations?

Kerry James Marshall, Untitled, 2008. PHOTO: Courtesy of Harvard Art Museums

The idea of ​​a cultural context “ReFrame” arose from Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel’s curator of photography.

In this first phase of the initiative, several of the works that visitors will encounter as soon as they enter the museums have been re-hung to represent artists of color. Kehinde Wiley’s work “Portrait of Asia-Imani, Gabriella-Esnae and Kaya Palmer” welcomes spectators upon entering the Fogg Museum. It replaces a Max Beckman triptych with similar vibration and energy. Lee says Wiley is one of the most requested artists for students, and while this piece is on a two-year temporary loan, the Energy is a perfect first glimpse of the museum’s offerings.

“Untitled” by Kerry James Marshall, believed to be a self-portrait, can also be found at the entrance to the museum. Here, viewers get a glimpse of an artist at work, not just the results of his work.

While contemporary art has a plethora of diverse perspectives to consider, part of the “ReFrame” initiative is to reassess art from all eras. Lee says, “It shouldn’t just be about contemporary art and contemporary issues. How to take the concerns of today and integrate them into the art of all eras? “

In the spring, the Harvard Art Museums will launch an exhibition featuring the Brandywine Workshop, a group known for creating opportunities for artists of color who were not already working in print media. This is another step in the “ReFrame” process. Inclusiveness has become paramount in the minds of museums over the past two years. For Harvard Art Museums, there is an added challenge of being considered a museum only for Harvard University, which it is not.

It will take time to make the necessary changes in the space, but Lee and the rest of the team are determined.

“What we decided for the reopening was that we didn’t want ‘ReFrame’ to be a one-off temporary thing. We envisioned it as a multi-year project,” says Lee. “What’s the point of a museum if you can’t accommodate people in space? ”


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