With 2020 right around the corner, the time for New Year’s Resolutions is coming right up. The Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) announced a major resolution: to only acquire works by women artists in 2020. Earlier this year, the museum made headlines for deaccessioning works by Andy Warhol and Robert Rauschenberg, who they deemed over-represented in their collections, in order to raise funds for acquiring works by women and artists of color. Now the BMA is taking a step further to ensure that 2020 is their most diverse year ever as the announcement applies to works that they purchase as well as what they receive in donations. Additionally, all 22 exhibitions planned for the year ahead will be focused on women artists.
Museum director Christopher Bedford told the Baltimore Sun:
This how you raise awareness and shift the identity of an institution [. . .] You don’t just purchase one painting by a female artist of color and hang it on the wall next to a painting by Mark Rothko. To rectify centuries of imbalance, you have to do something radical.
According to CityLab, only four percent of the museum’s 95,000 artworks were created by women — reflective of a general and typical imbalance throughout the art world. Bianca Kovic, incoming executive director of the National Association of Women Artists, told the Sun:
It’s particularly important that the BMA is creating a platform for woman artists to showcase their work, because that will inspire other women to make art. Even today, female artists are highly under-represented in museums. We have a lot of work still to do about educating the public on the importance of women in American art history
The BMA’s decision was more than two years in the making. It came under the leadership of women throughout the museum. The board of trustees is chaired by Clair Zamoiski and the curator in chief is Asma Naeem. The move was largely well-received by activists who have been pushing for greater diversity in the art world for decades.
“I would say the 2020 Vision is just an extension of a code of ethics that has been deeply embedded within the museum,” Bedford added. “Building a permanent collection is building a story for all time.”
The lineup of 2020 exhibitions at the BMA includes shows dedicated to Ana Mendieta, Joan Mitchell, and Mickalene Thomas, among others. Their acquisitions budget for the year ahead sits around $2 million currently.