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Naomi Beckwith. Photo: Nathan Keay.

Guggenheim Appoints Naomi Beckwith Deputy Director, Chief Curator

New York’s Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum has announced the appointment of Naomi Beckwith as deputy director and Jennifer and David Stockman Chief Curator. In the latter role, Beckwith, formerly senior curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, will replace Nancy Spector, who resigned in October. In her dual roles, which she will assume in June, Beckwith will oversee the museum’s collections, exhibitions, publications, and curatorial programs and archives, and will play “an instrumental role in shaping the museum’s vision.”

“One cannot overstate the iconicity and consequence of the Guggenheim Museum,” said Beckwith in a statement. “Yet, refusing to rest on its laurels, it readily presents projects that disrupt art history’s mythologies. I’m excited to join the Guggenheim and its passionate team at a pivotal moment. I look forward to merging our shared goals of expanding the story of art, and also working to shape a new reality for arts and culture.”

The appointment of Beckwith, the first Black woman to hold such a position at the museum, punctuates a tumultuous period for the Guggenheim, which was roiled this past summer by accusations of institutional racism leveled by former and current employees. The allegations coincided with the museum’s launch of an independent investigation of Spector after guest curator Chaédria LaBouvier, the first Black woman to stage an exhibition at the Guggenheim, contended that Spector, who is white, and the museum attempted to effectively erase her efforts in regard to a Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition that she brought to the institution. Though the inquiry was said to have found no evidence that LaBouvier was mistreated on account of her race, Spector stepped down at its close. The museum has launched a two-year initiative aimed at inclusivity, which includes plans to partner with historically Black colleges to promote job offerings, the hiring of a top-level manager to oversee diversity strategies, and the launch of a paid internship program, as well as efforts to increase the presence of works by minority artists in the museum’s collection.

Beckwith, who holds a BA in history from Northwestern University and an MA from the Courtauld Institute, came to the MCA Chicago in 2011, rising to senior curator in 2018. There, she co-curated exhibitons included “Howardena Pindell: What Remains to Be Seen” (2018) and “The Freedom Principle: Experiments in Art and Music, 1965 to Now” (2015). Prior to her tenure at the MCA, she was an associate curator at New York’s Studio Museum in Harlem, where she organized shows such as “Lynette Yiadom-Boakye: Any Number of Preoccupations” (2011) and “30 Seconds off an Inch” (2009–10). She sits on the boards of the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts and the Laundromat Project.

“With her highly regarded accomplishments, scholarship that contributes to building a revised canon of art history, and creative projects that connect artists of today with growing audiences, Naomi Beckwith will be a catalytic leader for our outstanding curatorial team,” said Richard Armstrong, director of the Guggenheim Museum and Foundation, in a statement. “Her expertise will be invaluable in advancing and amplifying an inclusive range of perspectives within the Guggenheim collection and culture.”

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