THE FIFTH EDITION of Prospect New Orleans officially opens to the public Oct. 24, 2020 and runs through Jan. 24, 2021. The triennial will feature artists from around the world and engage resources throughout New Orleans—the cultural community, arts institutions, and local sites.

Prospect.5 is led by curators Naima J. Keith and Diana Nawi. They were named co-artistic directors of the international exhibition last May. Their appointment marks the first time since Prospect was founded in 2007 that two curators will organize the triennial. Nawi is a Los Angeles-based independent curator. Keith was deputy director of the California African American Museum (CAAM) in Los Angeles when she was tapped for Prospect.5 and has since joined the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA). Next month, she begins working at LACMA as vice president of education and public programs.

“We are working deeply to consider the city of New Orleans as a site for an exhibition, historically, intellectually, and culturally,” Keith said in a statement.

“We are working deeply to consider the city of New Orleans as a site for an exhibition, historically, intellectually, and culturally.” — Naima Keith

The dates for Prospect.5 were announced this week along with an eight-member director’s council selected by Keith and Nawi. Council members will serve as collaborators and help execute their vision for the triennial. They will also identify potential artists, contribute to the exhibition catalog, and participate in public programs during the opening celebration in October. The council members are:

Members of the Prospect.5 Director’s Council are: Clockwise, from top left, Valerie Cassel Oliver, Deana Haggag, Rita Gonzalez, Thomas J. Lax, Gia Hamilton, Courtney J. Martin, Eugenie Joo, and Franklin Sirmans. | Images: Joe Mahoney/Times-Dispatch; Olivia Obineme, 2017, Courtesy; © Museum Associates/LACMA; Paul Mpagi Sepuya;; Dia Art Foundation; Heinz Peter Knes/SFMoMA; and Miami Times – All images via Prospect New Orleans


KEITH AND NAWI have assembled top-notch and top-ranking talent. The council is composed entirely of people of color. The diverse group represents institutions located throughout the country and brings a broad range of expertise. Notably, the team includes New Orleans-born Gia Hamilton, who heads the New Orleans African American Museum, and Franklin Sirmans, artistic director of Prospect New Orleans in 2014. In addition, there are many connections within the group. LACMA is particularly prominent.

Prior to Valerie Cassel Oliver‘s appointment at VMFA, where she co-organized the traveling exhibition “Howardena Pindell: What Remains to be Seen,” she was at the Contemporary Art Museum Houston. There Oliver developed “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art.” Described as the first comprehensive survey of performance art by black visual artists, the show traveled to the Studio Museum in Harlem, where it was coordinated by Thomas J. Lax.

Keith and Lax were at the Studio Museum in Harlem at the same time. They co-curated “Fore” (2012), part of the museum’s series of group exhibitions featuring emerging artists. Both Keith (as of April 1) and Rita Gonzalez are at LACMA now. Sirmans was curator and department head, contemporary art at LACMA (the position Gonzalez holds now) when he organized Prospect.3, with Gonzalez on his team as curatorial advisor. The following year, Sirmans was named director of PAMM.

Nawi’s most recent institutional position was at PAMM. She organized “John Dunkley: Neither Day Nor Night,” “Nari Ward: Sun Splashed,” and “Iman Issa: Heritage Studies” at the Miami museum and her tenure overlapped with Sirmans. Working independently, her more recent exhibitions have included Dancing in the Absence of Pain: Terence Price II and “Adler Guerrier: Conditions and Forms for blck Longevity,” which was at CAAM.

“We looked to colleagues that we knew had a range of experiences producing meaningful exhibitions in a variety of regional and global contexts,” Nawi said. “This exhibition is very much emerging from a dialogic position, and this amazing group will be critical interlocutors for us in this process.” CT


Catalogs have been produced to document each cycle of Prospect New Orleans. “Prospect.1: New Orleans” and “Prospect.2: New Orleans,” were organized by Dan Cameron. Now director of Pérez Art Museum Miami, Frankin Sirmans served as artistic director of “Prospect.3: Notes for Now.,” and has joined the director’s council for the forthcoming Prospect.5 edition. The most recent edition, “Prospect.4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp,” was led by Trevor Schoonmaker, chief curator at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University.


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