The chief curator of the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art has resigned after a petition demanded his departure for allegedly using the phrase “reverse discrimination” and saying he wouldn’t exclude white male artists from contributing to art collections, SFist reported.
Gary Garrels, the chief curator of painting and sculpture at the museum, was accused of having “toxic white supremacist beliefs regarding race and equity” by a group of former museum employees who demanded his resignation, SFist reported.
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At the SFMOMA staff meeting this week, Senior Curator Gary Garrels was asked to respond to his documented earlier comments about collecting white male artists. His response included violent language claiming “reverse racism.” Gary must be removed from his job, effective immediately. @SFMOMA, Gary’s words are in direct conflict with your stated mission. If you are committed to anti-racist work, the choice is clear. Link to sign a letter in support of Gary’s removal in our bio.
During a Zoom meeting in July, Garrels had reportedly given a presentation on new acquisitions of art by artists of color. He said the museum “will definitely still continue to collect white artists,” and that excluding the work of white male artists would be “reverse discrimination,” according to SFist.
The petition says Garrels’ language was violent and conflicted with the museum’s mission. Garrels apologized, reportedly saying, “I realized almost as soon as I used the term ‘reverse discrimination’ that this is an offensive term and was an extremely poor choice of words on my part.” (RELATED: Boston Fine Arts Museum Agrees To Spend $500,000 To Promote Diversity)
“I am very sorry at how upsetting these words were to many staff,” He continued, according to SFist, “I do not believe I have ever said that it is important to collect the art of white men. I have said that it is important that we do not exclude consideration of the art of white men.”
Multiple other staff members of the museum have recently resigned, including the deputy director of external relations Nan Keeton, who was accused of deleting an Instagram comment under one of the museum’s posts that called out systemic racism, according to SFist.
Garrels was with the museum since 1993, and had previously helped create an acquisition fund for new works by artists of color, women, and LGBTQ. But he also was criticized for agreeing to work with the founders of Gap to take in a large collection of art that was predominantly created by white male artists of the 20th century.