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Culture Strike: Art and Museums in an Age of Protest by Laura Raicovich

(Verso Books)

* This event may be a hybrid live Central Library / virtual event, depending on COVID-19 safety protocols, with social distancing and limited occupancy measures. Announcements to follow.

Leading activist museum director Laura Raicovich explains in her new book why museums are at the center of a political storm and how they can be reimagined. For this evening of conversation, she is joined by writer and art historian Aruna D'Souza, as they discuss the structural issues faced by cultural organizations and museums that have increasingly come under fire in our age of protest, and how to address them.

Protests against museum funding (like the Metropolitan Museum accepting Sackler family money) and boards (such as the Whitney appointing tear gas manufacturer Warren Kanders)—to say nothing of demonstrations over exhibitions and artworks—have roiled cultural institutions across the world, from the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi to the Akron Art Museum. Meanwhile never have there been more calls for museums to work for social change. Raicovich shows how art museums arose as colonial institutions bearing an ideology of neutrality that masks their role in upholding capitalist values. And she suggests how museums can be reinvented to serve better, public ends.

After their conversation, leading curators and writers Ken Chen, Dr. Kelli Morgan and Helen Molesworth respond in turn.


Laura Raicovich is a New York-based writer and curator. She recently served as Interim Director of the Leslie Lohman Museum of Art; was a Rockefeller Foundation Fellow at the Bellagio Center; and was awarded the inaugural Emily H. Tremaine Journalism Fellowship for Curators at Hyperallergic. While Director of the Queens Museum from 2015 to 2018, Raicovich co-curated Mel Chin: All Over the Place (2018), a multi-borough survey of the artist's work. She lectures internationally and in 2019-20 co-curated a seminar series titled Freedom of Speech: A Curriculum for Studies into Darkness at the New School’s Vera List Center for Art and Politics, from which she is co-editing an anthology of writings on the subject. She also is the author of At the Lightning Field (CHP 2017) and co-editor of Assuming Boycott: Resistance, Agency, and Cultural Production (OR 2017). She is co-curator of the BPL project Art & Society Census (2020-21). (Photo left: courtesy of Michael Angelo; photo above courtesy of Grace Roselli, The Pandora's Boxx Project)

Aruna D'Souza is a writer and critic whose work appears regularly in, where she is a member of the editorial advisory board, and The New York Times. Her most recent book, Whitewalling: Art, Race, and Protest in 3 Acts (Badlands Unlimited), was named one of the best art books of 2018 by the New York Times. She is editor of Lorraine O’Grady’s Writing in Space 1973-2018 (Duke University Press, 2020), and co-curator of the retrospective of O’Grady’s work, Both/And, which opened in March 2021 at the Brooklyn Museum. 


Ken Chen is working on his next book Death Star, which follows his journey to the underworld to rescue his father and his encounters there with those destroyed by colonialism. He won the Yale Series of Younger Poets Award for his book Juvenilia, and was a cofounder of CultureStrike and the Executive Director of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop from 2008 to 2019. (Photo: courtesy of Youmna Chlala)



Dr. Kelli Morgan is a curator, educator, and social justice activist who specializes in American art and visual culture. Her scholarly commitment to the investigation of anti-blackness within those fields has demonstrated how traditional art history and museum practice work specifically to uphold white supremacy. (Photo: courtesy of Tyrone Myrick)



Helen Molesworth is a writer and curator based in Los Angeles. (Photo: courtesy of Brigitte Lacombe)


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