In a press release on February 8th, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announced that Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown, philanthropist based in the city, had gifted the museum with $3.5 million. The contribution is specifically meant to aid the BMA’s chief curator position and underscores the couple’s ongoing dedication to the development of the museum. The Browns have supported the BMA for more than 20 years and their work has significantly contributed to the BMA’s collection of African American artists. In honour of the gift, the BMA has announced that the couple will be commemorated by the chief curatorial position by naming it for the Browns.
The Eddie C. and C. Sylvia Brown Chief Curatorial role makes one of the few curatorial positions named for an African American couple in the US. The role is filled by Dr. Asma Naeem who was appointed to the position in August 2018. Dr. Naeem is a scholar of female artists and artists of colour and her background includes extensive work concerning both.
In 2016, the BMA has embarked on a revamp of their collection and museum as a whole to highlight and focus on equality by making room for new acquisitions supporting female artists, artists of colour, and contemporary artists. In April of 2018, the museum deaccessioned a number of mainstays works by artists like Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg to generate funds to finance their endeavour. In December, the BMA also announced a new biennial commission that would emphasize diversity which invited artist Mickalene Thomas to begin the biennial installation. The Brown’s endowment is yet another milestone in the BMA’s commitment to underrepresented artists.
In the BMA’s statement, Clair Zamoiski Segal, BMA chair of the board of trustees, praised the couple saying: ‘
The Browns are visionary philanthropists, who have long understood that access to and experience of the arts has a profound impact on the vitality of a city and its many communities. Their support for a wide range of cultural institutions and initiatives in Baltimore has ensured the ongoing growth of our city’s cultural fabric and a greater level of opportunity and participation among a spectrum of audiences. We are deeply honored that they have once again chosen to support the BMA, through both this generous gift and through their continued leadership and engagement with the museum. Their vision and voices are invaluable.’
The Browns expressed their appreciation for the BMA in the statement, as well, offering:
‘We have always been compelled and inspired by the depth and interest of the BMA’s curatorial program. In recent years, the museum’s commitment to excellence has been joined with a vision to examine and present a more fulsome picture of art history, giving a platform to those artists that have previously been underrepresented or left entirely out of our cultural dialogues. With the appointment of Dr. Naeem and the exciting exhibitions and initiatives to come, this seemed the perfect moment to expand our support for the museum and for the important role of chief curator.’