The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) is being slammed for hiring a white woman as its new curator of African art rather than a Black person. The museum announced last week on Instagram that Amanda M. Maples has been appointed as the curator of its African art collection and since then, comments the museum has received show that people are not impressed by its decision to fill that role with a white person.
“Hard to believe there were no equally qualified African American candidates, from Louisiana or the surrounding south, to hold this position,” Instagram user Laura Gentle, wrote. “No offense at all and congrats to her! She seems to be qualified given the brief history you all provided, but are there no African, Black or POC that can oversee endeavors like this at NOMA?” another Instagram user @scorpiontay commented on the museum’s post. “The efforts to showcase African history became very watered down and dampened when the very person appointed to oversee them isn’t at least a person of color and can by no means relate to the black or African experience.”
The museum responded to the comments, saying that while it cannot speak about others considered for this post, “Maples’s breadth of experience and emphasis on sustained collaboration with artists and institutions in Africa and around the world set her apart from other candidates.”
It further explained that Maples’s research and work focus on areas where the museum is seeking to grow, including leading a crucial reconsideration of how North American museums collect and present African art.
Maples, who has a Ph.D. in Visual Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, worked in the past as curator of Global African Arts at the North Carolina Museum of Art. She was also a visiting faculty member at the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill’s Department of Art and Art History.
Her first major project as curator at NOMA will be to lead the curation of a 2025 exhibit about masquerading in contemporary West Africa, which will be a collaboration with other African institutions such as the Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, Senegal.
“Maples will create new installations and interpretive strategies for the museum’s permanent collection and expand the geographic and chronological scope of the African art collection with a contemporary vision,” the museum said.
As Maples’ appointment continued to attract backlash last week, the museum said a national consulting firm that specializes in searches in the arts helped guide it in the search to fill the position. It said that it plans to host a town hall in the immediate future to “openly discuss race and equity within museums.”
In 2018, the Brooklyn Museum was also criticized for hiring a white woman known as Kristen Windmuller-Luna as curator of its African art collection.
The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) opened in 1911 with only nine works of art but today it has a permanent collection of nearly 50,000 artworks.