In Pursuit of Inclusion — The Revolutionary Met

Metropolitan Museum of Art (Image via Pixabay)

The art world has been one of the most transient, changing communities around the globe, and the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has been on the forefront of that in recent years.

New movements and styles pertain to different centuries and years, but one constant that is seen in the art world is the high percentage of artists being European or U.S. white men.

This is something that has only in recent years begun to change.

Many of the most famous museums we know and visit around the world are starting to understand that inclusion is one of the most fundamental ideas within art, whether understanding it or making it. The Metropolitan Museum of Art is a great example of a U.S. museum that has made inclusion, representation and diversity one of its key themes and ideas when curating galleries in their museum.  

Brief background

Nineteen seventy-one was the first time we really saw anyone speak out against these social confines of what makes art good art.

Art was not considered good unless it was made by a white European or U.S. man. Linda Nochlin, a scholar and artist from the 70’s released her essay “Why Have There Been No Great Women Artists?”

Nochlin’s essay highlighted why there have been no great women artists, as well as why the art world has made it so difficult for women artists to succeed.

That essay gained lots of traction for the feminist movement of the late 1900’s, but again, representation was still falling short.

A new move was made by the people of color, specifically artists of color in the New York City and Harlem areas.

Female artists like Faith Ringgold and Betye Saar began creating works in the 1970’s through the 2000’s that were controversial and inspiring, giving their community and their counterparts a voice and a chance.

We are now in 2022 and the art world as well as art museums are becoming more and more diverse. Slowly, but surely, progress is being made and it isn’t something that should be disregarded or underplayed.

The groundbreaking Met

In 2015, the Met released a statement on their website titled “Institutional Diversity, Inclusion, and Equal Access Policy Statement.” This statement discusses how diversity, inclusion and equal access are fundamental principles at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.

Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City -- the Met (Image by anielbaez0 from Pixabay)
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City (Image by anielbaez0 from Pixabay)

This means that all people have access to come and be guests at the museum. It is a safe place for anyone to come and enjoy art. These principles also apply to all aspects of how the museum is run and what is curated, too.

Since the 1980’s, great strides have been made to make the galleries and programs more progressive and forward thinking. Within the Met, 33 percent of general workers are people of color. Along with that, the Met works very closely with other studios and museums around the area. One of them is the Studio Museum in Harlem, New York.

Studio Museum in Harlem Curator-at-Large Amber Esseiva (Image credit: The Studio Museum in Harlem)
Studio Museum in Harlem Curator-at-Large Amber Esseiva (Image credit: The Studio Museum in Harlem)

That studio has six main curators and four out of the six curators are women, and they are all multi-cultural women of color. This fusion of ideas and cultures are what is bringing more diverse and universal people to work in and visit the Met.

When I see what’s happening at the Met, it’s almost extraordinary.

Lowery Stokes Sims, Education Department of the Met

Not only are those statistics refreshing to see, when you look at the lineup of shows and instillations highlighted at the Met, you see titles like “Art of Native America,” “Home is a Foreign Place,” “Dutch Masterpieces” and “Nature and Divinity in Polynesia.”

These showings that came to the Met in recent years are proof that there are people within the art world that are pushing for inclusion — creating gallery spaces that are welcoming and inviting to all people, of all nationalities.

The Met is definitely a front-runner among museums in the United States that have placed an emphasis on diverse shows. With it as an example, other museums around the world could potentially follow in the Met’s footsteps.

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City -- the Met (Image by Ramon M from Pixabay)
Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (Image by Ramon M from Pixabay)
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