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Some of you have asked about my experience at the Guggenheim as the first Black curator, woman & creator of the Basquiat exhibition.
I'm still super proud of it. Working at the Guggenheim w/ Nancy Spector & the leadership was the most racist professional experience of my life.
And this is a bittersweet statement to make b/c there are a lot of wonderful people there that deserve more. They know that this chapter of the Basquiat exhibition and the aftermath hangs an ugly shadow over the Guggenheim in ways the leadership does not yet understand.
I'm a Texan and I've been in many iterations a journalist, a writer, an organizer (more on that later), a bartender, etc.
I'm also a scholar of Jean-Michel Basquiat's work & Keith Haring's. I started at 18, and at 34, I am one of the leading scholars of those artists in my gen.
In 2016, I did a show at the Williams College Museum of Art which caught a bit of attention & that of some in the NY art world, including Nancy Spector.

She was at the Brooklyn at the time & when she returned to the Guggenheim, she asked if I would bring the show there.
I pitched the show to a number of Black museums and universities, but none would take the Basquiat show about police brutality and Michael Stewart, so I went w/the Guggenheim, b/c they very much wanted the show & I wanted it to be go where it was wanted.
I also knew the Guggenheim had a thin history of involving Black people, and I was assured that this was something that they were working "very hard" to correct and change.

Fast forward to 2018, when I begin working on the show.
I I did not sign over my copyright (this is important). One, I funded my work independently for years & two, I do not believe in handing over that kind of power to ppl w/no experience in it.There were signs throughout the show that Nancy Spector was trying to co-opt my work.
Loan letters asking for works did not properly present that the scholarship was my work or it was presented as if we discovered the scholarship together. Spector claimed she "had to do this" to secure works, although advisors noted the tactic made it difficult to secure loans.
Because it was not giving collectors of incredibly valuable and popular (hullo, Basquiat, Keith Haring, Warhol) the human connection to why this show was important or the person responsible for bringing it to life.
Back to the essay. Spector said in this bloodbath mtg that a joint essay w/my name, hers & Joan Young's would be published and I could edit it to "punch it up" with Basquiat scholarship.

I said fuck no & fought back. We had real problems from that point on.
From Nov 2018, it was a constant battle to protect the work & pull of this exhibition in which I was hoping to challenge curatorial norms & present a different sort of art history to the public.
I knew if I failed, no one would know why, just that this Black woman had failed.
I was met w/constant retaliation for essentially refusing to give up ownership of my work. In a mtg when I said that I did not want to publicly release certain interview tapes, Spector said, "this is a work for hire", forgetting I owned my copyright. She was later incensed.
At the Guggenheim, there was no normal course of reining her in. Everyone was afraid of her, and the Director had completely checked out. When I asked to speak to him, he ferreted me off to HR or allowed Spector to interject to say I could meet him w/her.

I refused to do so.
The mtg w/the Director of HR was a 2.5 hour mess. I took notes during and after. In the mtg she made a Freudian slip to my concerns of Spector's treatment of the Stewart family and she said, "of course, b/c you came into this together with them, they're like your property."
I pointed that out to her once & after that it was straight retaliation, culminating in before the exhibition closed, her threatening to not pay me if I did not return equipment and a WORK BADGE.

This is illegal.
Ppl have wondered why the show didn't get the press commiserate w/its popularity or why ppl didn't know I was Black (I've gotten that a few times.)

It was b/c the Guggenheim's Press Office turned press away & told them I was unavailable -- this was not true.
All of the interviews that you see about the show -- I organized myself & ppl can confirm that. I knew I was being sabotaged, but I had to push through it & do my best to give the show whatever I could, including being my own PR.
Here a journo confirmed that he was told I was unavailable...as well as Nancy. Nancy was not a curator of the show & her availability had absolutely nothing to do w/any press I should've done. This order came from her & it was meant to hurt the show, its popularity & me.
I could not say anything during the run of the show, although every day felt like another nightmare of seeing what Nancy or the Guggenheim would do to hurt the exhibition or me in retalitation. (I had her name pulled off my credit line in April, which was a blow to her.)
The panel was merely a public culmination of Nancy constantly attempting to erase me from my work and punish me for not handing over my work & agency. And the museum's leadership just watched.

Nancy Spector is the Amy Cooper of the Guggenheim and I stand by that statement.
The panel was the pentultimate day of my exhibition & she placed the Black woman that they hired nearly two months before on the panel, as well as two contributors from my catalogue (that I owned) as a way of saying, "I will put you in your place."

When I said that this was harmful & that the Black woman who was hired, knowing what this panel stood for & why she was being used as a statement against me was wrong for this, I was accused of being jealous, of imagining a correlation w/her hiring being announced a week later.
The thing I can say about the panelists is that most of them knew that this was fucked up & wrong & they opened it up for Q+A, even though Spector told them not to, and later screamed at 1 for "defying me".

Screamed at a grown woman for opening up a public Q+A at a museum.
It has not been easy being blamed for what you've experienced, what no one should experience and then being ostracized by ppl in your field as though you did something wrong. I will never EVER forget those that left me for dead. I got your number, bitch(es).
Thank you to everyone who has publicly stood by me, defended me when so many wouldn't & watched on social media so much of this go down. For ppl not in the art world watching, some of the responses have only confirmed why the public they serve feel so disconnected from them.
I am still finding the words for my experience, and how I want to say them & when. I understood the risk that I took speaking up, but I didn't have a choice & it was unfair that I even had to make that: my career, or my dignity & my sense of self. But I chose myself.
And I will never ever regret it. Of course I have fears, but I know that I did an amazing and historic and game-changing show. And I'm talented as fuck. And I have faith in things unseen and unknown. My faith has always been bigger than my fear -- b/c it has to be.
People have asked if I want or need anything. I'm collecting money to give to the most vulnerable organizers on the ground & I'm sharing screenshots on Instagram, like here: instagram.com/lalabouvier/
My Cash App & Venmo are LaLaBoux and my PayPal is: paypal.me/chaedria
If you're so inclined, you can give there & i will be sharing the receipts on Instagram. So far, I've been able to give $5K to trans women of color, disabled persons, Black women and food insecure organizers for mundane things like food, money for cell phone bills, PPE, etc.
I just ask that when you tell the story that you remember I am still finding my words to fully say my piece.

And I through all of this, put on an amazing show & made history baby. Pls do not let that be lost & defined by what they tried to do to me & my darling show.
A Black woman did this. She did Basquiat justice. Michael Stewart justice. Discovered art history. Was the first Black curator to curate a show at one of the most racist museums in the country. With one hand tied behind her back. And she still killed it.
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