Philip Guston’s first retrospective in 15 years has been postponed yet again. The event, which was supposed to commence on June 7, has now been postponed until 2024 amidst heightened racial tensions, as well as the current global health crisis.
Guston’s portfolio contains multiple paintings of Ku Klux Klan figures, including a painting of himself in a hooded Klux robe. Critics have said that Guston painted the figures as a way of revealing America’s failures rather than him endorsing white supremacy.
Musa Mayer, the artist’s daughter and head of the Guston Foundation, criticised the decision to postpone the retrospective. “Not only had he violated the canon of what a noted abstract artist should be painting at a time of particularly doctrinaire art criticism, but he dared to hold up a mirror to white America, exposing the banality of evil and the systemic racism we are still struggling to confront today,” said Mayer. Her criticism also garnered support from many on social media.
The postponed show contains 125 paintings and was intended to be exhibited in four museums: The National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Tate Museum in London and the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.
According to an email written by seven representatives of the four museums, the show is currently being completely rethought. “As issues of race and social injustice have become increasingly part of public dialogue over the last several months, it became apparent we needed to rethink our interpretation of these works.”
They also noted, “We feel it necessary to reframe our programming and, in this case, step back, and bring in additional perspectives and voices to shape how we present Guston’s work to our public. That process will take time.”