Holland Cotter asks (& answers) why such a diverse city has an art world that’s “a bastion of whiteness”
In his piece “Lost in the Gallery-Industrial Complex,” New York Times art critic Holland Cotter asks:
And on the subject of integration, why, in one of the most ethnically diverse cities, does the art world continue to be a bastion of whiteness? Why are African-American curators and administrators, and especially directors, all but absent from our big museums? Why are there still so few black — and Latino, and Asian-American — critics and editors?
And the answer, in part, lies here:
Political art brings me back to where I started, with artists, and one final, baffled complaint, this one about art schools, which seem, in their present form, designed to accommodate the general art economy and its competitive, caste-system values. Programs are increasingly specialized, jamming students into ever narrower and flakier disciplinary tracks. Tuitions are prodigious, leaving artists indentured to creditors for years.
The art world loves to skewer institutions supposedly at the top of the art world ecosystem, such as the Whitney Museum of American Art, for putting on shows bereft of diversity, but we can look elsewhere, too. Cotter devotes much of his article to the art market and New York City’s cost of living - he says each has their effect on the art created here, but we can look further down the food chain. We can’t ignore (although we often do) the privilege that enables an individual to have the choice to become an art student in an economically inequitable society like our own. Cotter’s use of the term “caste-system” is apt.