SIMILAR TO AN INNOVATIVE IDEA or a smart strategy, a sound mission will stand the test of time. When the Studio Museum in Harlem was established in 1968, its purpose was to serve as a nexus for black artists, to provide a platform for exposure and serve as a resource in an art world that gave scant consideration to diverse voices. In the nearly 50 years hence, the museum remains laser focused on its original intent.

“The mission remains exactly the same,” says Thelma Golden, the museum’s director and chief curator. In a new interview with Arise Entertainment 360, she discusses the museum, its mission, her work and the state of the art world.

“In some ways our founders were so brilliant by creating such a clear mission that they knew that on the one hand it served that moment, but that also it would live today,” she says. “There was a real attention at that moment to changing the art world in the United States. The Studio Museum was an institution really created to rewrite art history.”

“The Studio Museum was an institution really created to rewrite art history.” — Thelma Golden, Arise Entertainment 360

charles gaines gridwork catalogThrough its exhibitions and artist-in-residence program, the museum has indeed rewritten art history, cultivating emerging artists and providing a foundation for an impressive roster of highly regarded black artists including Sanford Biggers, Chakaia Booker, Mark Bradford, David Hammons, Rashid Johnson, Julie Mehretu, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Mickalene Thomas and Kehinde Wiley. It’s a gratifying legacy Golden is proud to carry on.

Golden says she entered the art world standing on the shoulders of pioneering historians and curators who came before her. She comments on her groundbreaking exhibition “Black Male: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary American Art,” which opened at the Whitney Museum in November 1994; Promotes the Studio Museum’s current exhibition, Charles Gaines: Gridwork 1974-1989,” an exploration of the work of Charles Gaines, an important conceptual artist and influential educator based in Los Angeles; And weighs in on the intersection of art and fashion when queried about being married to London-based designer Duro Olowu, whose silhouettes, vibrant color palette and mixed print aesthetic are influenced by his Jamaican-Nigerian heritage.

When asked if the art world is now more welcoming of artists to color, Golden says it is.

“I think the art world is wider and more global. When we are talking about the art world there isn’t one, there are many art worlds. We are talking about an environment that really is speaking to the world at this moment,” she says. “So I think that, ‘Yes,’ those changes and the ability for us to have this international art conversation have certainly changed the art world.” CT


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