The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) has been chastised for appointing a white lady as its new curator of African art instead of a Black person. The museum announced last week on Instagram that Amanda M. Maples had been selected as the curator of its African art collection, and comments since then reveal that people are not impressed by the museum’s decision to fill that post 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.”
In response to the criticisms, the museum stated that, while it cannot speak for the other candidates, “Maples’ 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 went on to say that Maples’ research and practice are focused on areas where the museum wants to grow, such as spearheading a critical rethink of how North American institutions collect and show African art.
Maples, who holds a Ph.D. in Visual Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz, previously worked at the North Carolina Museum of Art as the curator of Global African Arts. She was also a visiting faculty member in the Department of Art and Art History at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Her first major project as a curator at NOMA will be to head the curation of a 2025 show about masquerade in modern West Africa, which will be a collaboration with other African institutions such as Dakar’s Museum of Black Civilizations.
“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 the uproar over Maples’ selection grew last week, the museum revealed that a major consulting business specializing in arts searches assisted it in its hunt to fill the job. It stated that it intends to hold a town hall meeting in the near future to “openly discuss race and equity within museums.”
The Brooklyn Museum was also chastised in 2018 for appointing a white woman named Kristen Windmuller-Luna as curator of its African art collection.
The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) first opened its doors in 1911 with only nine works of art, but it now houses a permanent collection of almost 50,000 artworks.