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Baltimore Museum of Art appoints a new director

Asma Naeem (photo courtesy Christopher Myers, courtesy BMA).

Asma Nassem, the new director of Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA), has been announced. Asma Naem was announced by the museum on Tuesday January 24th. She will take over as the institution’s first woman of color on February 1. 

BMA Board of Trustees named Naeem the museum’s 11th director after a 10-month search following Christopher Bedford’s resignation in June 2022. (Bedford is now the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art’s chief curator. Naem has been at the Baltimore Museum of Modern Art for five years. She was first its chief curator, and most recently, as interim director. at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery.

In recent years, the controversy surrounding Baltimore’s institution has been intense. The museum was criticized for its 2020 plan to sell three paintings by Andy Warhol, Clyfford Still, Brice Marden and Clyfford Still and use the $65 million estimated proceeds to fund its operations. fund staff salaries, equity programs, and new acquisitions. Clair Zamoiski Segal was the former chair of the Association of Art Museum Directors. They wrote a letter requesting that Clair Zamoiski Segal reconsider the decision. A group of ex-BMA trustees and museum supporters signed an open protest letter. Artists Amy Sherald, and Adam Pendleton resignedDuring this period, the Board of Trustees did not mention the deaccession plan. The sale was eventually completed. halted hours before two of the paintings by Still and Marden were slated to go under the hammer at Sotheby’s (the Warhol was to be sold privately).

Despite the sale’s cancellation, the institution announced that it would continue to pursue its “Endowment for the Future” initiative, set in motion by a $1 million lead giftEileen Harris Norton, philanthropist/collector, received this donation in February 2021. It would be used to help fund new acquisitions of artists of color and other projects.

Naeem also assumes the role of director in less time than one year since almost 140 workers from the BMA voted. form a “wall-to-wall” unionAll employees are covered, including retail operations, curation and security departments. Workers were covered in March 2022. demonstrated in front of museum steps during an exhibition curated by the museum’s security guards to pressure former BMA Director Christopher Bedford to sign the City of Baltimore’s union election agreement.

Salman Toor – No Ordinary LoveInstallation at the Baltimore Museum of Art (photo courtesy Mitro Hood, Courtesy BMA)

Naeem has curated numerous exhibitions during her time at BMA. Candice Breitz: Too Long, Didn’t Read, Salman Toor: No Ordinary Love, and the future The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century

Too Long, Didn’t ReadThe, which ran March 15, 2020 through March 15, 2020. Two multichannel video installation by Breitz, a South African-born artist on November 15, 2020, featured two multichannel video clips that reflect on internet culture and celebrity culture. The Salman Toor exhibition featured the Pakistan-born artist’s reinterpretations of historical works, such as Sir Anthony van Dyck’s “Rinaldo and Armida” (1629) featuring brown, queer figures, and is traveling to other institutions such as the Rose Art MuseumBrandeis University and The Tampa Museum of Art. No Ordinary LoveAlso included was a catalog with essays by Evan Moffitt, an art critic, and Hanya Yanagihara, a magazine editor and novelist. 

She co-curated the upcoming event. The Culture, celebrates Hip Hop culture’s influence upon contemporary art on the 50th anniversary of the global movement’s birth.

In a statement HyperallergicNaeem spoke out broadly about her vision of the institution. “Art does not conform to geopolitical boundaries,” Naeem said. “We are seeking to show visitors how interconnected cultures are and to surface Non-Western influences that permeate the historical art canon.”

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