Overcoming the “invisibility” of art gallery security guards

The exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art, ‘Guarding the Art’, brings a new dimension of appreciation to the BMA’s varied works. , March 25). The guards’ insights come from frequent exposure to art and building a connection over time – just as frequent visitors to the BMA also come to know and claim their favorite works. The exhibition recalls the importance of the guards who help visitors to find their way around the museum, as well as to protect the work.

About 20 years ago, an exhibit by distinguished artist, Fred Wilson, was on display at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I was looking forward to seeing him because I had been so touched by his show 10 years earlier, “Mining the Museum,” at the Maryland Historical Society asking “Where am I?” from the perspective of a Black Marylander. You can imagine the artifacts Mr. Wilson unearthed: chains, wanted notices for runaway slaves, auction announcements for slave sales, and the like. All of this juxtaposed with the fine silverware and decorative arts of Maryland.

At the opening of UMBC’s latest exhibition, this same Fred Wilson, dressed in a guard uniform and standing at the entrance to the retrospective of his work, stood guard all evening. At the close, he came forward and introduced himself with these paraphrased comments: “I’ve been here all night and no one has made eye contact with me or said a single word.”

I now ask: Why? Was it his darkness or his guard job that made him invisible or unrecognized?

Either way, the BMA now pays attention to its guards by seeking their advice and critical eye. I can’t wait to see this show!

Nancy Cox, Baltimore

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