Diverse Works: Director's Choice, 1997–2015
We do not just collect masterpieces; we have a story to tell about individual works of art, about art histories, and about how a museum collection fits into a truly global worldview. By telling those stories we connect people. My commitment is both to enhancing those stories—and to advancing the Museum’s goal of making art make sense of the world for our visitors.
These stories must be told accurately, boldly, and compellingly to our diverse audiences. The better we tell these stories, the broader and deeper our audiences’ engagement with the collection will be, and the more we will deserve recognition as one of the great museums of the world.
Artists from across time, from around the world, and from vastly different backgrounds created the diverse array of art in this exhibition. And we have taken a bold step in rewriting the traditional art history narratives that have so often excluded women and people of color from such museum survey exhibitions. Our new narrative, as embodied in the Brooklyn Museum’s collecting agenda over the past nearly eighteen years, is an inclusive one: it seeks to connect people and cultures with the aim of finding shared experiences, mutual understanding, and respect.
Arnold Lehman Shelby White and Leon Levy Director
The works of art included here represent collecting by the Brooklyn Museum, under the direction of Arnold Lehman, from 1997 to 2015. They speak to his vision of the collection: one that is global and pushes boundaries. His vision is diverse, and it proposes that diversity works for all the members of our audience, who, we hope, can find themselves reflected in the art in this exhibition and throughout the Museum.
Kevin Stayton Chief Curator
January 1, 2015
A selection of 100 works from the nearly 10,000 acquired during the tenure of the Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum, Arnold Lehman, will be presented in his honor on the occasion of his retirement in the summer of 2015. Diverse Works: Director’s Choice, 1997–2015, on view from April 15 through August 2, 2015, includes works in a wide range of media from every corner of the globe. Spanning many centuries, the exhibition brings together important objects from all of the Museum’s collecting areas.
The selections range from an ancient Chinese mythical carved figure (5th–3rd century B.C.E.) to contemporary works by Kiki Smith and Chuck Close, and a mixed-media collage (2013) in a customized frame from the American artist Rashaad Newsome. The installation highlights the scope of the Museum’s collecting accomplishments, underscoring the commitment to diversity that makes the Museum’s collections exciting and unique, and thereby honoring the vision of retiring director Lehman.
Highlights from Diverse Works include Kara Walker’s Keys to the Coop (1997), a linocut that depicts an African American woman in bold silhouette, holding the severed head of a chicken; the permanent installation in the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art of Judy Chicago’s iconic work, The Dinner Party (1974–79), which represents 1,038 historical women through ceramic, porcelain, and textile; and Go (2003), a large-scale ceiling painting by Kehinde Wiley. Also included are a silver Song dynasty reliquary (986) inscribed by the artist Li Lingxun; the biomorphic Spacelander bicycle (1960), believed to be one of only five hundred ever sold, making it one of the rarest and most sought-after industrial designs of the mid-twentieth century; an ancient Egyptian Relief of Mourning Women (1319–1204 B.C.E.); and Pablo Picasso’s Woman in Gray (1942), one of several paintings he created in quick succession in Paris during World War II that evoke the bleakness of life in the German-occupied French capital.
Exhibited as well is a sculpture from the Tuskegee Airmen Series (1997) by the artist Michael Richards, who died while working at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001; a mask (circa 1977) depicting Elvis Presley by an unidentified Chewa artist belonging to the Nyau society, where masks of iconic foreigners have been considered to represent antisocial and undesirable values; and the critically acclaimed photographer and documentary filmmaker Timothy Greenfield-Sanders’s inkjet print image of the choreographer Bill T. Jones (2007), which was featured in the Museum’s exhibition The Black List Project (2008).
Diverse Works: Director’s Choice, 1997–2015 is organized by the curators of the Brooklyn Museum in honor of Arnold Lehman. The exhibition is made possible by the Martha A. and Robert S. Rubin Exhibition Fund and the Norman and Arline Feinberg Exhibition Fund.