Romare Bearden. The Dove. 1964. Cut-and-pasted printed paper, gouache, pencil, and colored pencil on board, 13 3/8 × 18 3/4″ (33.8 × 47.5 cm). Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller Fund. Photo: Thomas Griesel

Romare Bearden: The Prevalence of Ritual grew, in part, out of demands made by the Art Workers Coalition (AWC), an activist organization that advocated for New York City museums to improve their ethical relationship to artists and to the public. They argued that museums should improve public access by waiving admission fees and implement more inclusive exhibition policies to encourage shows by women and minorities. In 1969, the AWC submitted a list of demands to MoMA, including that a “section of the Museum, under the direction of black artists, should be devoted to showing the accomplishments of black artists.” MoMA’s Board of Trustees recommended that the institution embrace a more inclusive approach to collecting, exhibiting, and public programming, and the Bearden exhibition was one of the first outcomes of this recommendation.

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