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Artist withdraws from MMoCA Triennale, asks director to resign | Entertainment

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Ten of the 23 artists have withdrawn their work from the prestigious 2022 Wisconsin Triennale, Ain’t IA Woman?, at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. .

On Friday, a group of those artists issued an open letter to the museum. Their demands include the dismissal of the museum’s director, Christina Brungart, the return of money, a public apology, and a candid dialogue with the artist about the museum’s treatment.

MMoCA’s leadership has failed to show meaningful consideration for this exhibition and its attendees by failing to protect against external harm and repeatedly carrying out systematic harm within the company. ’” the letter said.

Museum management did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

Ain’t IA Woman opened in April with guests curated by Milwaukee artist and gallery owner Fatima Laster. Through Oct. 9, the museum lobby and her at 227 State St.

A recent visit revealed an exhibition in the process of demolition. The walls were bare. The gift shop-turned-gallery space that was once full of art was mostly empty.

Hedi Rudd, a member of the MMoCA Board of Directors since early August, said: “They are all waiting to hear from the museum.”

The artist says the triennale was poorly supported and had none of the related events that other similar exhibitions have done in the past. The museum is “ill-equipped” to host an exhibition featuring black female artists and must commit to a “holistic approach for future generations.” , fairness and inclusion audits publicly and shared.

“I expected more,” wrote one artist, Nia Wilson, in a letter. I am really disappointed with MMoCA about this.”

The artists have expressed solidarity with Madison artist Lilada Gee, whose work celebrates the joy of black girls. Gee’s art was vandalized at the museum in June. Many pointed to the lack of a clear, public apology to Gee as the main reason things escalated at MMoCA.

Speaking at the Learning into Allyship event Tuesday night, Gee said he’s been in touch with fellow Triennale attendees.

“Everybody feels it,” Gee said. “It resonates with all of them. And here’s the problem — my work was supposed to be there until October. What sacrifices have I made? New opportunities I might have had?

“The long-term effects are emotional, mental, physical and financial,” she added. “There are so many levels to this.”

An empty space in The Shop gallery at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art once hosted art at the 2022 Wisconsin Triennale. 10 artists pulled their work.

“Too rude”

The first public agitation incident against the current state of the Triennale occurred in March. Gee and her MMoCA event director and volunteer, his Annik Dupaty, were barred from entering the back door by Overture Center staff.

The women described the incident as assault and traumatic for both. A petition was circulated demanding an apology from the Overture Center, which was vaguely announced through the media.

Meanwhile, Gee chose to leave her mural unfinished, instead presenting a blank canvas surrounded by art supplies and clippings, accompanied by an open letter about her experience.

A few months later, on June 24th, a young mother and her two children were left unsupervised and an installation in a shop gallery destroyed. Museum staff tried to stop them, but the three walked away with pieces of the work.

Brungart followed the women and children to Capitol Square. So she called Gee “to defuse the precarious situation by addressing and refusing the woman’s continued requests to take her artwork home.”

Gee said Brungardt asked if the woman could keep the job.

“My art was stolen unsupervised,” she said Tuesday, recalling the moment. and I’m asking if I can take it home Why are you asking me this This is so disrespectful!

Lilada Zee's artwork defaced (copy)

Lilada Gee’s artwork was defaced at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in June.

Brungardt moved to Madison from Houston and has been Director of MMoCA since Summer 2020. She apologized on behalf of the museum through various reports at the time. Communications Her director Marni McEntee sent her Cap Her Times in July part of the statement, saying, “MMoCA would like to extend our sincerest apologies to guest her curator Lillardasy and to each of the artists who appeared in the exhibition. I apologize.” was written on it.

But Gee, who later said she was diagnosed with breast cancer, said she would not discuss the matter with the museum. Overall, the lack of public reaction from museums is far from what artists are looking for.

The leadership has yet to openly discuss the incident on its website or social media. Two separate panels, including black female curators, remain pending.

In a scathing email sent to Cap Times on August 5, curator Luster called Brungart’s remarks to the media “acrimonious, dishonest and inaccurate” and called the Triennale a “failure” caused by Brungart. called.

“You alone have ruined the Triennale, brought dishonor, and heightened the community’s existing distrust and dislike of MMoCA,” Luster wrote.

Luster said the museum has excluded her from contact with the artist who requested the removal of the work. This was done “because of MMoCA’s apparent lack of appreciation and protection of her work and body.”

“This is about the demographics represented and the denial of your biased underestimation of our work,” Luster wrote.

“My request for a complete restructuring of the organization and your dismissal is still valid.”


The 2022 Wisconsin Triennale will run through October 9 at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art at 227 State St. Nearly half of the artists who attended the show dropped out.

innovative approach

The Triennale began as a Biennale in 1978 at the Madison Art Center, the predecessor of MMoCA, and became a Triennale in 1987. This has historically been a statewide survey of contemporary art in Wisconsin, with directors and curators visiting studios across the state.

Senior curator Rick Axom, curator emeritus, described it as “a prestigious exhibition showcasing the best of contemporary art in Wisconsin.”

Last April, MMoCA announced that it would change its format. For the first time, we were looking for an external guest curator with an “innovative and comprehensive vision to bring an innovative approach to the foundation of MMoCA’s exhibition programme.”

MMoCA eventually hired Laster, who owns and operates the 5 Points Art Gallery in Milwaukee. Release quoted by Laster in August 2021:

“Despite the very real obstacles of being doubly marginalized, I am open to the vast talent, dignity, and prolific visual discourse that black women artists possess and contribute to the art industry. Even more enthusiastic about revealing and sharing with the audience.”

It wasn’t lost on her or the community that Luster worked with predominantly white institutions.

Supporters, including several artists who would later show their work at the exhibition, wrote an open letter in September 2021. and an opportunity for Luster to hire staff and interns.

The Triennale seeks to “correct the voices of generations of artists and the historically white art norms that have been ignored … ‘Isn’t I IA Woman?’ Advocates, and will inspire and shape MMoCA members and supporters. ”

The exhibition opened in April and featured Gee’s unfinished mural installation as part of it.

The room is now mostly bare — nearby works by Kierston Ghaznavi and Nakeysha Roberts Washington (“voy*euris*tic”) have been removed.


The 2022 Wisconsin Triennale will be located at the State Street Gallery at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.

Institutional impact

It’s not unheard of for an artist to remove a work from an exhibition, but it’s extremely rare.

According to NPR, eight artists withdrew their work from the Whitney Biennale in 2019, protesting that officials owned “military supply companies that sell tear gas and bullets.” Recently, three Iraqi artists pulled out of his Berlin Biennale to protest artwork depicting prisoners being tortured.

The artists who withdrew their work from the Wisconsin Triennale did so for a variety of reasons. Beyond the lack of transparency from museum management, their complaints include the lack of condition reports provided to the artist upon receipt of the artwork, and the fact that “multiple works were not safely installed and were unacceptable.” Properly installed and damaged during installation”.

Emails from artists pulling luster and works were sent to the entire MMoCA board, including President Dynee Shafor, who met to discuss the issue. I have commissioned two Trustees, Colin Goode and Leslie Smith III, to do this.

The board has not yet taken a public stand. This already concerns members like Rudd, who is considering resigning in less than three weeks.

“I don’t think the board knows what’s going on,” she said. The leadership said, “We should have done something a little more public quickly, and more importantly, we had to make sure Fatima was on board and felt she was part of the process.” Huh…he should have been brought in from Jump as a collaborator.”

Some people close to the museum are concerned that these events could have long-term effects on the museum.

Axsom, senior curator emeritus, said he had heard from donors and art collectors who were angry and concerned about the safety of the works. He expressed his concerns about the low morale of museum staff and the impact on artists.

“I don’t want to see institutions lose credibility,” he said. “I am concerned because I have a deep respect for this institution.

Others in Madison’s arts community want the museum to take the lead in cleaning the air.

“See you now,” said Mark Freya, head of Dane Arts. “Find, address, and generate action steps to prevent this from happening again…because if we don’t address this situation now, people will come to their own conclusions.

“If you haven’t already done so in person, it may require a heartfelt ‘sorry’ from MMoCA leadership.”

Rudd wants Brungart to listen to black women on her own staff, including Dupati.

“I was raised to trust black women,” she said. “That’s not a catchphrase. We have the privilege of having two black women on staff who tell us that what you’ve done isn’t good enough. There was a staff member who said this was coming.”

“Listen to them or deal with what happened.”