‘Guarding the Art’: In this museum exhibition, the guards are the curators



Written by Gabriella Angeleti

This article was originally published by The Art Newspaper, an editorial partner of CNN Style.
Museum security officers, who are probably most concerned with art, will soon be hosting an exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) as guest curators.

The exhibition “Guarding the Art”, which opens in March 2022, will bring together a selection of works that will resonate with each of the 17 participating officers and offer “different perspectives from the museum hierarchy,” according to curator and art historian Lowery Stokes Sims, who helped develop the project.

“The security guards guard the art, interact with the public, and see reactions from visitors that most museum staff cannot access from our offices,” said Stokes Sims. “I was impressed and moved by the exceptionally personal, persuasive arguments each officer put forward for their selection, which was so different from the intellectual and filtered approach of a trained curator.”

“Blue Edge” (1971) by Sam Gilliam. Recognition: Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art

For example, officer Ricardo Castro selected a number of pre-Columbian sculptures “to bring some of my Puerto Rican-American culture on display,” while Dereck Mangus selected a painting by a local self-taught artist named Thomas Ruckle entitled “House of Frederick.” Crey “, from 1830 to 35, partially depicting the Washington Monument in Mount Vernon, Baltimore, the historic residence of US Founding Father George Washington.

“The painting was hung salon-style in the American Wing and stood out among all of these other different pictures,” said Mangus. “It’s a glimpse into old Baltimore from a Baltimore-centered artist that most people have never heard of, and it shows the neighborhood I live in.”

Officer Kellen Johnson, who has a background in classical singing and performance, selected the work “Still Life with Large Shell” by the German painter Max Beckmann in 1939.

“House of Frederick Crey” (1830-1835), attributed to Thomas Ruckle. Recognition: Courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art

“It’s a portrait of his second wife, Matilda, who was a violinist and gave up her career to support Beckmann and his painting endeavors,” said Johnson. “His first wife was also an opera singer, and I felt this painting reflected my own career as an opera singer.”

The other officers attending the exhibition are Traci Archable-Frederick, Jess Bither, Ben Bjork, Melissa Clasing, Bret Click, Alex Dicken, Michael Jones, Rob Kempton, Chris Koo, Alex Lei, Dominic Mallari, Sara Ruark, Joan Smith and Elise Tensley. You are now working with museum staff to determine the installation design, create a catalog, and develop public programs around the exhibition.

“I was impressed with the care, dedication and investment they put into this project,” said Stokes Sims. “It will be interesting for the public to see that there can be a multitude of curatorial voices in large institutions.”

Above: “Still life with a large shell” (1939), by Max Beckmann.

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