The New York Times says, “Ambitious museum shows in Tulsa, Richmond, and Louisville left an imprint.” In Louisville, the show they are speaking of is the “Promise, Witness, Remembrance” show at the Speed Art Museum.
The paper named the exhibit one of the Best Art Exhibitions of 2021. Holland Cotter, co-chief art critic at the New York Times, described the show as doing “unusual business” as it was one of a few shows that was the result of museums evaluating their potential and relevance in their communities.
“Promise, Witness, Remembrance” was a show that honored Breonna Taylor, who was murdered by police in March of 2020. Curator Allison Glenn and the team at the Speed plus her steering committee got the show pulled together in four months, a very quick time frame.
Breonna Taylor’s memory has been the subject and topic of much art over the past year. It is perhaps easy now for spaces to use Taylor’s memory as a way to boost their credibility and appearance of inclusion. The Speed show was something different, and certainly the first of what would seem a stream of imitations where art spaces “confront” themes of oppression and violence in America against Black bodies.
For Louisville, the show was an important step in moving the city towards a space of healing from the past year’s events, and yet many of the issues seem to be persistent, and officers involved in the killing of Taylor tastelessly beg for attention, mercy or both in the public sphere.
Happening just over a year after Taylor’s death, the show was necessary and then-Speed director Stephen Reily told LEO back in March of this year, “It’s been a year in which everything going on in Louisville has challenged us to think about how an art museum serves its community at times like this. As the year went on, we really thought about what an institution, and communities that are going through trauma, are supposed to do. How do we each find our way to help? Our way is art.”
We agree with the New York Times that this show was one of the best of the year. It is important for art spaces to put community up front and to serve as a place to be challenged and, yes, even confronted.
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