Madison, Wis. (WMTV) – The Madison Museum of Contemporary Art apologized to an artist and stood by its staff Wednesday after vandalism occurred during an exhibit of the Madison artist’s work in June.
Wisconsin Triennial Presentation by Lilada G. “Ain’t I a Woman?” Artwork contributed to the museum highlighted black women artists in Wisconsin. Surveillance video from the museum, which Gee and MMOCA officials said would not be released publicly, shows museum guests holding pieces of the work. Another video overlooking the museum lobby shows guests, identified by authorities as a mother and her children, leaving the building with the artwork in hand.
On Wednesday, the executive committee of the board of trustees at MMOCA said in a statement that the situation was “unacceptable and we know the situation has caused her pain.”
“We are deeply sorry for this. Lilada is a talented artist and an invaluable voice for black women and girls. We are proud to have her and her artwork as part of the exhibit,” the board said.
At that time, Ji heard about the incident from the director’s call.
“I didn’t understand,” Gee recalled. “I said, ‘Excuse me, you’re telling me someone vandalized my exhibit, and you’re asking me if they can take the vandalized canvases home?'”
The committee said in a statement that it fully supports Executive Director Christina Brungard and her staff and believes the actions she has taken to address the incident are necessary.
“We believe that the actions taken by the Executive Director to address the incident, including actively resisting efforts by local uniformed law enforcement officers to forcibly recover the artwork and/or detain the mother who misappropriated the artwork, were a necessary and appropriate means. “Reducing the stressful situation involving the children. What’s more, at the time of the incident, the director did not want to allow the mother to own the artwork; rather, the director’s every action was aimed at safely and methodically negotiating the correct return of the work to the museum and the artist,” the group said.
The group also described the 16-minute window in which the gallery was not protected as “an anomaly, not the rule.”
By now, most of you have not June 24, 2022 Wisconsin IA Women? The damage to Lilada G’s artwork inside the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA) is unacceptable and we know the situation has caused her pain. We deeply regret this. Lilada is a talented artist and an invaluable voice for black women and girls. We were proud to have him and his artwork as a part of the exhibition.
Since the incident, there has been a series of articles, e-mails and letters criticizing the MMOCA administration and board of trustees, and making inappropriate and unfounded accusations of institutional racism for their handling of this unique situation. We do not take these allegations lightly – MMoCA, like all museums, grapples with historical institutional racism. The Board of Trustees, on behalf of the entire organization, wishes to reaffirm MMOCA’s commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive environment for all and addressing these damaging allegations.
First and foremost, we begin by clearly stating our full support for Executive Director Christina Brungard and her entire staff. It is a team of dedicated people who are committed, and have a proven track record of honoring all the artists who exhibit at the museum and the artwork they entrust to us. We believe that the Executive Director’s proactive rebuttal of efforts by local uniformed law enforcement officers to address the incident was a necessary and appropriate means of forcibly retrieving the artwork and/or detaining the mother who misappropriated the artwork. De-escalating stressful situations involving young children. What’s more, at the time of the incident the director did not want to allow the mother to own the artwork; Rather, the purpose of each of the director’s actions was to safely and methodically negotiate the correct return of the work to the museum and the artist. We stand with Ms. Brungardt and are grateful for her leadership, professionalism and vision to continue to grow MMOCA into an influential, globally recognized organization that prioritizes equality and inclusion.
It has also been alleged that the museum was disorganized in organizing the exhibition and that ‘broken promises’ were made. This unfortunate story negates months of collaboration, communication, and relationship building between artists, guest curators, museum administration, and museum staff to bring the vision for IA Women to Life? Exhibition. To ignore the multiple conversations held to ensure the success of the exhibit with the flexibility of museum staff to address specific requests and address changing needs undermines the communication and trust built as part of this process. We highly respect the artists and everyone involved in bringing this exhibition to life. We are deeply saddened that some artists have chosen to remove their works from it before its October conclusion. We stand by our commitment to encouraging artists to express their free will through their art, including choosing not to exhibit their art, even if doing so would result in court controversy or confusion.
In terms of security for the exhibit, the artwork in the Wisconsin Triennial was held to the same standards of care as other exhibits in the museum. Short lapses in safety were an anomaly, not the rule. A 16-minute period in which hired gallery attendants were not in a portion of the exhibition space is not disrespectful to black artists or the exhibition’s guest curator, nor does it indicate institutional racism. Leadership and staff collaborated with guest curators and featured artists to create an environment that delivered on our mission to provide transformative experiences that educate, reflect and inspire us as individuals and communities. An unfortunate incident should not destroy all the positive work achieved through this valuable exhibition, and it certainly should not cause people to tarnish the reputation of MMOCA or its staff.
Out of respect for the people involved and for the important mission we pursue every day – and that this exhibition represents – we have not interfered with the public narrative that this event has previously spread. We understand that this lack of public comment could be viewed as disrespectful, or misinterpreted as a signal agreement with the allegations against museum staff and directors. Our sincere intention, however, was to work privately, out of public view, with those directly affected to resolve the issue and ensure that IA women are not? The positive impact originally envisioned by guest curators and artists was achieved. We are the first to admit that this approach has not yielded the helpful results we had hoped for.
MMOCA will continue to provide a forum for people to challenge, reflect and make connections between art and the world around them. We support the staff, artists and others who helped bring the Wisconsin Triennial to life. And we are ready, willing, and able to engage in difficult exchanges that will help us create more social justice in our communities and our world, and better ways to elevate the arts as a means to achieving those outcomes.
Executive Committee, Board of Trustees
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
Director of Communications
Madison Museum of Contemporary Art
227 State Street, Madison, WI 53703
o 608.257.0158 x241
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