Short Take: Museum of the Dark Arts

In contrast to the screams that the Harper’s Letter was signed by famous wealthy celebrities trying to protect their terf from the voices of the oppressed and marginalize, there is the barely audible whimpering of Gary Garrels.

Who? Gary Garrels. You know, that fabulously wealthy celebrity who . . . oh wait. He’s nobody you would know unless you happen to be in the bowels of the art world.

Until last week, Gary Garrels was senior curator of painting and sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art (SFMOMA). He resigned his position after museum employees circulated a petition that accused him of racism and demanded his immediate ouster.

He resigned, which may be a product of his taking the pressure off his employer to fire him, because his colleagues who petitioned for his removal were rather harsh about it.

“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?”

Wow. What sort of heinous racism was this guy, a senior curator of painting and sculpture at SFMOMA, long a hotbed of white supremacy, doing?

After hearing of events that occurred at an All-Staff Meeting on Tuesday, July 7, 2020 we call for Gary Garrels to resign or be removed from his position as Senior Curator of Painting and Sculpture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. As Senior Curator, he represents the museum in tone and content. Through actions and words, Gary has been obtuse (at best) to the point of offense or deliberately racist (at worst) in his retorts to criticism. When pressed on the museum’s collecting policies he has repeatedly said some variation of “don’t worry, we will continue to collect white male artists.” Amongst SFMOMA staff as well as in public view, Gary has used and continued to use white supremacist and racist language such as “reverse racism.” This has been documented.

What sort of Nazi would openly say, at a museum no less, that Picasso was still welcome? What’s next, Warhol? It’s almost like demanding that museum employees call him “Master,” and so they petitioned the lord in prayer.

Gary’s removal from SFMOMA is non-negotiable. 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? Furthermore, is any more evidence required to prove that these viewpoints are cavalierly wielded by staff members in the most extreme positions of leadership and power and setback long-term progress towards a more inclusive institution?

That escalated quickly, from “obtuse” to “toxic white supremacist” in three paragraphs. All because his notion of “inclusivity” didn’t mean excluding white artists. I’m literally shaking.

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 “I have said that it is important that we do not exclude consideration of the art of white men.”

No wonder Garrels’ termination was non-negotiable. He just doesn’t get it. And to further the cause of inclusivity, I will take all the Modigliani’s off their hands, maybe even a Jackson Pollack or a (ugh) Haring, so their diverse eyes never bleed again from the toxicity of modern art.

As for Garrels, he chose to walk away. Maybe staying was untenable in light of the petition, and its “non-negotiable” demand, but at least he wasn’t canceled by culture.

20 thoughts on “Short Take: Museum of the Dark Arts

  1. Dan

    The disturbing thing isn’t, so much, that putative adults are acting like children–that’s been true for a long time, though it does seem to be growing rapidly in recent years. The much more disturbing thing is that nobody’s standing up to them.

    A much more appropriate response would be to have taken them at their word: “You have said that working with Garrels is unacceptable. The statements you’ve presented are neither racist nor white supremacist, and we have no intention of terminating him based on those statements. Therefore, we are accepting your resignations immediately.”

    1. SHG Post author

      It’s certainly true that such demands wouldn’t be successful if the employer told the petitioners to take a hike. But how does the cost/benefit analysis work out?

      1. Grum

        SHG, that’s a fair question, but yours is a young country, and this side of the pond we’ve seen a fair few examples where this goes titsup over the last 500 years or so, not as if you’ve not had plenty of examples to pay attention to over there already.
        At some point, someone really nasty is going to advise them not to let the door hit them on the arse on the way out, and, frankly, I don’t want to meet that person either. And the pisser is, that’s who they are going to empower.

      1. John Barleycorn

        Damn…. did the guys who put your roof on while fucking up your yankee gutters put the glass on that thing or what?

        Get some proper glass on that… Nice reflection and all but even for a solarium that will fuck with your chi if it hasn’t already destroyed it forever.

        Gary can probably help you out here. My guess is you might be able to find him hanging out at Yerba Buena Gardens pondering why so much fucking concrete while trying to figure out a way to communicate with seagulls.

  2. KP

    “I will take all the Modigliani’s off their hands” Love it!

    There will be a queue out the back by the dumpster as they toss everything by anyone vaguely white or vaguely male..

    Sadly Dan lives in a wonderful world that was…

  3. Random Wine Geek

    The misspelling of “turf” as “terf” in the first paragraph was so on point that I have wonder if it was intentional.

  4. Lee King

    Why does the phrase “fuck you and the horse you rode in on” keep coming to mind?

    I guess I’m not qualified to work in post-modern, post-factual, Progressive America.

  5. Rengit

    I’ve noticed that using the term “reverse racism”, or its corollary phrasing “racism against white people”, will almost automatically result in instant disqualification, no matter what else you say, amongst institutions or social crowds that have gone woke. It’s like a dirty word.

  6. losingtrader

    “Fat” and “ugly” were cancelled long ago by the unwoke, so “white male” seems fair.
    Thankfully , my job doesn’t get cancelled because the internet doesn’t like my opinions.

    As my contribution this week, as of the close of trading Wed, it cost $400 to bet that 100 shares of Tesla would reach $3500 by July 24th. It cost as much as $1800 for one contract on Tuesday, but I kept that trade for myself.
    And while you’re at it , short the stock because every means of getting anyone to buy this nonsense has been exhausted.
    We are about to find out how fast a stock can fall.

    1. F. Lee Silly

      You are a legend in your own mind, Loser. You are front-running us in a most shameless fashion, and SHG is allowing this because you are out of his league. (Or vice versa!) What do lawyers know about stock options, futures and such nonsense? Not a whole lot.

      Get real, Loser, and play by the rules. No Hanky Panky, or Insider Trading. Harupph and Ahem, Martha Stewart-breath.

      1. losingtrader

        Other than paying my lawyers’ legal bills on time–an admittedly substantially important matter to all you guys–I can only opine on a very narrow area of law that doesn’t come up here.
        Well ,there’s that and I ain’t pressing no pink button unless it’s on a lady.

        So, given the CDL’s I know are at best breaking even these days, the only contribution
        I can make is to provide an occasional profitable trade. SHG can stop it whenever he desires (prolly the first time there’s a loss).


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