Gallery Owner “Shocked” That Showing Black Figurative Painter Didn’t Solve Systemic Racism

Blue-chip galleries in the New York art world were stunned by a new study revealing that systemic racism has not improved in the United States over the past year, despite their efforts to show Black figuration at art fairs. Longtime Chelsea dealer Gloria McWhitey said she couldn’t believe minority groups were still systematically disenfranchised, “even after all that money we spent on our Basel booth.”

Although McWhitey noted that she never actually met any of the artists she showed in person, she assured Hyperallergic that “all were people of color, or at least they were in lower socioeconomic brackets.” She further extrapolated the artists’ racial diversity by the subject matter, stating that none of the works depicted “stereotypical scenes or fetishized subjects.”

“One of my favorite paintings shows two women of color having tea on the Upper East Side,” McWhitey said. “That must be based on life experience, right? I mean, what White artist would come up with that?”

Another longtime New York gallerist, Marilyn Weiss-Frau, told Hyperallergic by email that a major show of Black figurative artists planned for this fall has incorporated a comprehensive research program including access to archival materials from the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s 1969 exhibition Harlem on My Mind: Cultural Capital of Black America.

“So much work has already been done by past scholars,” she said of the exhibitions, adding, “I get racism. I drove through Detroit once.”

According to an anonymous source, McWhitey’s gallery has instituted a “racial sensitivity training” program for employees that involves “quoting the Obamas to non-White people, getting lunch from ethnic restaurants, and watching Dave Chappelle’s ‘The Racial Draft’ on YouTube.”

When asked about the current climate of censorship in the art world and racism against SWANA artists, both McWhitey and Weiss-Frau responded, “What’s SWANA?” 

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