The Baltimore Museum of Art made waves with its announcement that in 2020 it would buy art only by women. This would be a bold move for any museum, but it’s right in step for the B.M.A., an institution that has made an effort in recent years to champion the work of under-represented artists. In the past three years alone, more than 20 of its exhibitions exclusively featured nonwhite artists. The museum has also made a point of purchasing and exhibiting art by black women, and has recently acquired six pieces by the Philadelphia-born abstract painter Howardena Pindell, whose richly cosmological work explores race and gender.
“The most important work,” says B.M.A. director Christopher Bedford, “the most relevant, topical, timely, rich, complex contemporary art being made today is being made by black American artists and artists of the diaspora.” Under Bedford’s direction, the museum’s curators are working toward a collection that reflects the population of its city—which is 62.8 percent black—and this means looking outside of traditional institutions to discover voices that have gone missing from the Western art-historical narrative. Such was the challenge for Katy Siegel, B.M.A. senior curator for research and programming, who was tasked with selecting the 70 pieces covering 70 years—the 1940s to the present—featured in the museum’s recent exhibition “Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art.”