Richard Armstrong, the sixth director of the Guggenheim Museum in New York, indicated in an interview within the Monetary Instances right this moment that he can be leaving his submit come spring subsequent 12 months. Throughout his 14-year directorship, Armstrong presided over sea adjustments on the Guggenheim that had been of 1 piece with broader, shifting attitudes on labor, illustration, and philanthropic ties within the artwork world, together with refusing future items from members of the Sackler household and the unionization of employees in 2019. However in recent times, Armstrong has come beneath hearth for his administration model, which some have tied to bigger problems with gender and race fairness on the museum.
In 2008, Armstrong succeeded Thomas Krens, who had been on the helm for a good longer stretch of 20 years. Armstrong’s appointment signaled a change in route for the museum, which beneath Krens’s management had reworked into a world model with newly erected outposts in Bilbao, Spain; Berlin, Germany; and two areas in Las Vegas that closed quickly after opening. In distinction to Krens’s repute as a businessman eager on rising the endowment (which greater than quintupled throughout his tenure) and remodeling the Guggenheim right into a luxurious model, Armstrong entered the function as an alum of the Whitney’s Impartial Examine Program, a former studio assistant to Summary Expressionist artist Al Held and sculptor Nancy Graves, and a curator on the Whitney and later the Carnegie Museum of Artwork in Pittsburgh. Quickly after he was appointed director, he informed the Wall Avenue Journal that his aim was to “to broaden on the unique optimism and style for the utopian that guided the museum in its beginnings.”
And certainly, the exhibitions that the Guggenheim placed on beneath Armstrong might be interpreted as a return to the museum’s roots as a champion of modernist and avant-garde artists, together with the primary main United States present of the work of Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (the Guggenheim’s most visited exhibition to this point); a showcase of the work of the German artwork motion Zero; and retrospectives for László Moholy-Nagy, Agnes Martin, On Kawara, and Alberto Burri. For a lot of critics, it was a welcome change from reveals like The Artwork of the Bike and a Giorgio Armani retrospective that characterised Krens’s reign.
However Armstrong was at occasions hampered by the ambitions of his predecessor. In 2006, Krens initiated plans to construct the biggest Guggenheim to this point in Abu Dhabi. That development undertaking, besieged by a number of delays, nonetheless stays beneath development 16 years after it was first introduced. (It’s slated to lastly be full in 2025.) It was additionally the topic of a number of protests organized by the Gulf Labor artist coalition in New York and on the Guggenheim’s European areas, which decried poor working circumstances in Abu Dhabi.
Armstrong confronted criticism in 2020 from present and former employees organizing beneath the identify “A Higher Guggenheim” for “nurturing a tradition of unchecked racism, sexism, and classism throughout all departments, ranges, and areas.” Among the many many complaints listed had been that he had displayed a condescending perspective towards Chaédria LaBouvier — a Black curator who organized a 2019 Guggenheim present on Jean-Michel Basquiat and later referred to as that have “essentially the most racist skilled expertise of my life” — and his propensity for making “culturally incompetent feedback.”
Armstrong additionally raised eyebrows when IRS filings on the finish of 2021 confirmed that he had made a document $1.5 million in whole compensation, at the same time as 11% of the Guggenheim’s employees was furloughed as a consequence of COVID-19.
With out instantly addressing these allegations, Armstrong acknowledged a few of the Guggenheim’s historic shortcomings on issues of range within the Monetary Instances interview. “The museum introduced itself beforehand as a world establishment, however it had a really myopic view of the globe,” he mentioned.
In a press release shared with Hyperallergic, the museum famous that Armstrong will proceed to guide long-term and each day operations till his departure and work with the board to determine and transition to new management.