Museum Apologizes For Ejecting Black Artist After White Visitor Complained

Photo: Getty Images

New York City's Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) has issued an apology after ejecting a Black artist from an exhibit centered around Black people.

Heather Agyepong, a British Ghanaian actress and visual artist, visited the museum earlier this week to view the "Black Power Naps" installation, an exhibit highlighting the "sleep gap" theory, which covers the insufficient sleep Black Americans get compared to their white counterparts, per theGrio.

Agyepong later shared on Twitter that her visit was cut short when she was asked to leave due to a complaint from a white visitor.

“Me and another Black girl got kicked out because a white lady came in and was laughing. And we said, ‘I think the space is kinda centered around Black people,’” Agyepong said in a Twitter video. “She started shouting and saying I was aggressive. She said I should be kicked out, that she works for the UN, and she’s going to complain. So, I got kicked out of an exhibition centered around Black people and rest.”

A MoMA spokesperson said they apologized to the artist and are dedicated to protecting the "experiences of Black visitors and visitors from Indigenous communities and communities of color."

“We reached out to Heather Agyepong and apologized,” the spokesperson said. “We are committed to presenting programs that move race equity values forward, and we acknowledge there will be challenges to work through and learn from as we support and invite artists and audiences to engage on these important issues.”

The museum said it will "explore" procedural charges such as additional signage and staff training with the guidance of “Black Power Naps” creators Navild Acosta and Fannie Sosa.

But the creators said they've been insisting the museum prioritize making the exhibit a safe space for Black people. Sosa previously created “The White Institution’s Guide for Welcoming Artists of Color and Their Audience" to prevent these types of incidents from occurring but the creators' efforts "weren't resourced" by MoMA.

“We insisted as soon as we were first contacted that this piece needed a serious commitment to anti-racism and that not doing so could warrant violence to our community, and we have been insisting ever since,” Acosta said. “It is only now that they are recognizing how urgent this is and willing to remunerate this labor. It’s been an uphill battle. In January, we ourselves were told to be quiet in our own installation by a white visitor.”

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