Fred Wilson joined New Orleans-based artist Ron Bechet in conversation on Thursday, October 24, at 6 pm in NOMA’s Auditorium for the 2019 Donna Perret Rosen Lecture.
In 1992, contemporary artist Fred Wilson set out to “mine” the collection of the Maryland Historical Society. The African American artist, then age 38, ventured into the storage areas of the Baltimore-based museum, established in 1844, and emerged with artifacts that had not been on display, or ones that were relegated to less conspicuous galleries. With an unorthodox curatorial vision intended to turn museology on its head, Wilson juxtaposed the traumatic with the traditional. Slave shackles were placed among nineteenth-century silver repoussé vessels. A whipping post was included within a display of handcrafted furniture. The white hood of a Klansman was draped in a baby carriage. Mining the Museum set records of visitation for the Maryland Historical Society and ignited a soul-searching discussion that continues today about the role of museums in presenting a more expansive—and often uncomfortable—interpretation of global history in art and artifacts. In the years that have followed, Wilson’s artistic practice continues to probe suppressed narratives and the representation of race in museums. In 1999, he was awarded a “Genius Grant” from the MacArthur Foundation.