On June 13, 1989, the Corcoran Gallery of Art bowed to significant political pressure and canceled Robert Mapplethorpe's retrospective less than three weeks before it was scheduled to open to the public. Now, thirty years later, this discussion with arts and cultural leaders will explore arts and censorship in the United States. Join us to reflect on the effects of this show’s closing on the museum community, the Corcoran and federal funding of the arts.
Part of 6.13.89: The Cancelling of the Mapplethorpe Exhibition.
Sanjit Sethi (Moderator)
Sanjit Sethi has two decades of experience as an artist, curator and cultural leader. Sethi is the 19th President of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and hisprevious positions include Director of the Corcoran School of the Arts and Design at the George Washington University, Director of the Center for Art and Public Life, Barclay Simpson Professor, and Chair of Community Arts at the California College of the Arts; and Executive Director of the Santa Fe Art Institute. Additionally, Sethi has taught at the Srishti School of Art, Design, and Technology; the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.
Sethi received a BFA from New York State College of Ceramics at Alfred University, an MFA in Ceramics from University of Georgia, and an MS in Advanced Visual Studies from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Sethi has been awarded numerous grants and fellowships, including a grant from the Robert Rauschenberg, and a Fulbright fellowship in India.
As an artist and curator, Sethi’s work has spanned different media and geographies. Past works include the Kuni Wada Bakery Remembrance; Richmond Voting Stories; the Gypsy Bridge project. Recent curatorial projects have included Spiked: The Unpublished Political Cartoons of Rob Rogers and the exhibition, 6.13.89: The Cancelling of the Mapplethorpe Exhibition. Additionally, Sethi is currently working on the Portland Hospice Potters Network and a body of paintings and drawings—the Delta Series.
Alan Wallach is Ralph H. Wark Professor of Art and Art History and Professor of American Studies Emeritus at the College of William and Mary. He was the co-author with Professor Carol Duncan of “The Museum of Modern Art as Late Capitalist Ritual” (1978) and “The Universal Survey Museum” (1980), essays that helped initiate the field of critical museum studies. He has written numerous articles on art museums and is the author of Exhibiting Contradiction: Essays on the Art Museum in the United States which was published by the University of Massachusetts Press in 1998 and remains in print. He is also an expert on Thomas Cole and the Hudson River School and was the co-curator with William Truettner of “Thomas Cole: Landscape into History,” which was seen at the Smithsonian American Art Museum, The Wadsworth Atheneum, and the Brooklyn Museum in 1994-95. More recent projects include studies of “Luminism,” a co-edited volume entitled Transatlantic Romanticism (2015), and a study of the social history of American art for the Blackwell Companion to American Art.
Dorothy Moss is curator of painting and sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery and coordinating curator of the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. Moss also directs the National Portrait Gallery’s triennial Outwin Boochever Portrait Competition. As curator of the Portrait Gallery’s first performance art series, “IDENTIFY: Performance Art as Portraiture,” she has commissioned new performances by multiple artists, including María Magdalena Campos-Pons, Sandy Huckleberry, J. J. McCracken, James Luna, Martha McDonald, Jeffrey Gibson, Wanda Raimundi-Ortiz, Sheldon Scott, and WILMER WILSON IV. She serves as one of the curators of the ongoing “Portraiture Now” series and co-curated “The Face of Battle: Americans at War, 9/11 to Now” (2017), which was part of that series. Moss’s most recent exhibitions include “One Life: Sylvia Plath” (2017), which focused on Plath’s visual identities, and “The Sweat of Their Face: Portraying American Workers” (2017). The latter examined portrayals of American workers in the United States from the eighteenth century to the present and was accompanied by a scholarly catalogue (Smithsonian Books). Her forthcoming exhibition “Hung Liu: Portraits of the Promised Lands, 1968–2020” will open at the National Portrait Gallery in 2021.
Prior to joining the National Portrait Gallery, Moss served as assistant curator of American art at the Corcoran Gallery of Art. She also worked as a researcher and writer for the installation of the Luce Foundation Center for American Art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. From 2008 to 2013, Moss taught the following seminars in American studies for the Smith College / Smithsonian program: “The Copy in the Museum: Museums and New Technology, c. 1900–Present” and “Facing, Replicating, and Defacing the Self: Locating Identity in American Portraiture, c. 1800–Present.” She has contributed to numerous exhibition catalogues, and her commentaries and articles have appeared in such publications as the Burlington Magazine, American Art, click!: photography changes everything, and Gastronomica. Her essay “Performing and Portraying the Copy, c. 1900” is included in Replication in the Long Nineteenth Century: Re-makings and Reproductions (Edinburgh University Press, 2018). In February 2020, Moss’s essay on Amy Sherald’s portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama will be published in The Obama Portraits (Princeton University Press / National Portrait Gallery).
After graduating from Smith College, Moss earned an MA in art history from Williams College, and a PhD in art history from the University of Delaware. Her dissertation, “Translations, Appropriations, and Copies of Paintings at the Dawn of Mass Culture in the United States, c. 1900” (2012), examined the shifting critical status of copies of paintings in the United States from 1870 to 1905.
Nicole Ivy is a historical thinker and professional futurist who is passionate about the arts and social change. Her professional and scholarly interests include strategic foresight, public history, Black visual cultures, and theories of embodiment. She earned the joint Ph.D. in African American Studies and American Studies from Yale University and is currently completing a manuscript entitled Materia Medica: Black Women, White Doctors, and Spectacular Gynecology.
Having begun her work in the museum field as an Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Graduate Fellow at the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Ivy has held several inaugural positions at the American Alliance of Museums, including serving as its first Director of Inclusion. In addition to her work in the museum field, she has held numerous academic appointments. She was a Visiting Assistant Professor in the History Department at Indiana University, Bloomington (IUB) and a postdoctoral fellow of the Center for Research on Race and Ethnicity in Society (CRRES) at IUB. She is an Assistant Professor of American Studies at the George Washington University in Washington, DC.