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MoMA Apologizes for Kicking Out Black Artist Heather Agyepong From Installation

Museum security asked Heather Agyepong to leave the installation Black Power Naps, after a White visitor called her “aggressive.”

A January 2019 performance of Black Power Naps at Performance Space New York (photo by Avi Avion, courtesy Black Power Naps)

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York has issued an apology to Heather Agyepong, a British Ghanaian artist who was ejected from an installation intended as a safe space for Black visitors. On March 25, Heather Agyepong who is a multidisciplinary artist, in the company of her friend had visited Black Power Naps, an installation by artists Navild Acosta and Fannie Sosa that provides a restful environment for Black visitors to the museum, where she confronted another visitor, a white woman, who was laughing loudly in the installation.

Agyepong had posted a video on Twitter recounting her experience and expressing her frustration, and how the woman complained to the museum's employees that she was "aggressive" and asked them to remove her and her friend from the installation. The video went viral and sparked outrage among many people who criticized the museum for its handling of the situation and its lack of sensitivity and respect for Black visitors. The museum reached out to Agyepong and apologized privately, offering her another pass to visit and a lunch, while promising to put up more signs and provide further training for staff.

Heather Agyepong

Following the event, the museum issued a public statement on March 29, apologizing to Agyepong and pledging to do more to "protect the experiences of Black visitors and visitors from Indigenous communities and communities of colour." The museum 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 also stated that it would consult with Acosta and Sosa, the creators of Black Power Naps, about other changes, such as additional signage and staff training. The installation, which runs until May 14, is inspired by the question "How can we dream if we don't sleep?" posed by poet Langston Hughes. It responds to the evidence showing that Black Americans are much more sleep-deprived than White Americans due to systemic racism and oppression. The installation aims to create a space of healing and empowerment for Black visitors through sound, sculpture and video.

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MoMA Apologizes for Kicking Out Black Artist Heather Agyepong From Installation

March 25, 2023

Art Report Africa

2 min read

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