The former chief curator for the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum was forced to step down after a Black-art expert that she brought in turned on her and branded her experience with the museum as ‘the most racist professional experience of’ her life.
A new retelling of the events published by The Atlantic shares the story of how Nancy Spector, a well respected curator who worked for the New York institution for decades, was scapegoated and deemed a ‘racist’ in the public eye.
Spector, however, had been cleared of wrongdoing, especially pertaining to racist acts or words against her peers, by an independent investigation.
In 2016, after curating an art exhibit featuring Jean-Michel Basqiat’s painting, ‘Defacement,’ Chaédria LaBouvier was reached out to by Spector, who wanted to curate a new exhibit which would include the painting.
Spector (left) and LaBouvier’s allegedly contentious relationship first began in 2016
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s ‘Defacement,’ also called ‘The Death of Michael Stewart,’ is the artwork that started the years long saga between Spector and LaBouvier
Now in her 60s, Spector is considered a pariah from the art world after being labeled ‘racist’ and a ‘bully’ despite being cleared by an external investigation
‘Defacement’ became famous for its depiction of the death of Michael Stewart, a Black man who died in police custody after being arrested by New York City Police officers over alleged graffiti.
Spector helped LaBouvier, opening the door to the highly exclusive art world.
The former chief curator for the Guggenheim took LaBouvier under her wing, mentoring her on the ins and outs of the work.
The relationship helped LaBouvier to create a definitive name for herself in the art world.
Spector, a 34 year veteran with the Guggenheim, resigned in 2020 despite an investigation revealed that she had not acted out of turn with LaBouvier
Less than five years later, however, Spector was out at the Guggenheim and LaBouvier was referring to her as Amy Cooper, the white woman dubbed ‘Central Park Karen’ for calling the police on a Black man who was bird watching.
The real issues began when LaBouvier submitted an essay proposal for the exhibit, which Spector and members of her staff said was not up to par.
Spector told her that major chunks of the essay would need to be revised for various reasons. The group said her work was ‘poorly written.’
LaBouvier was insulted and even attempted to persuade those involved in the projects to back out.
The Black-art curator said that Spector suggested that she help to rewrite it and co-author it.
‘I said f**k no & fought back,’ LaBouvier later said in a tweet.
The Guggenheim is one of the most famous museums in the world, bringing in millions of visitors each year
The woman, insulted, then allegedly attempted to persuade artists in the catalogue to withdraw from the project.
Her actions caused Guggenheim officials to renegotiate her fee. The museum also ended up giving her sole credit.
LaBouvier said that her time with the institution was toxic for other reasons as well, however.
In an interview with The New York Times in 2019, LaBouvier said that while she herself experienced so-called troubles with the museum, she hopes it will be better for those that come after her.
“I think it will be better for the black curators coming after me,”’ LaBouvier said. ‘For instance, if I didn’t review something, that meant that no person of color looked at that document or process. And certainly it felt at times that there was an expectation that I would just be grateful to be in the room.”
LaBouvier at one point allegedly brought guests to a private after-hours tour of the Guggenheim exhibit and did not warn Spector or security about the guests
In 2020, when the Guggenheim posted a black square square on social media on ‘Blackout Tuesday’ following George Floyd’s death, LaBouvier called out the museum.
‘Get the entire f**k out of here. I am Chaédria LaBouvier, the first Black curator in your 80 year history & you refused to acknowledge that while also allowing Nancy Spector to host a panel about my work w/o inviting me. Erase this shit,’ she tweeted in 2020.
LaBouvier claimed in a Twitter thread following her initial post that Spector tried to ‘co-opt’ her work with the Guggenheim.
The Black art curator’s thread sparked major outrage and turned a major crowd against the longtime Guggenheim employee.
Less than one month after the woman’s accusatory Twitter thread, the museum brought in an outside group to conduct an investigation into Spector.
The veteran art curator went on a three-month ‘sabbatical’ while the investigation was being done.
A Better Guggenheim, an organization dedicated to holding those within the museum accountable, looked into allegations of racial biases from Spector
Along with the allegations from LaBouvier, a Better Guggenheim, a group organized to hold Guggenheim officials accountable, officials looked into other potential instances of racial biases.
One anonymous person accused Spector of praising a security guard for their ‘wonderful Caribbean lilt,’ pertaining to their singing voice.
Additionally, investigators looked into a situation in which Spector allegedly confused two East Asian female staff members.
In October 2020, the results of an independent investigation into the accusations put forth LaBouvier found ‘no evidence that Ms. LaBouvier was subject to adverse treatment on the basis of her race.’
Other instances of potential racial biases were brought up during the investigation but found to be essentially baseless.
Spector was a staple inside the New York City art museum, devoting the better part of her life to the Guggeinheim
Kramer Levin, the law firm in charge of the investigation, reportedly examined thousands of pieces of evidence.
Investigators also spoke with staff members at the museum.
LaBouvier, however, did not speak with Kramer Levin.
The art curator said at the time that it was ‘not safe to do so.’
Just hours later, the board for the Guggenheim revealed that Spector was resigning after 34 years with the New York City staple.
The embarrassment for Spector didn’t end there, though.
Highly publicized coverage of LaBouvier’s accusations cost Spector friends and her reputation.
DailyMail.com reached out to Spector for comment but did not receive a reply by the time of publication.