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Guggenheim curator Ashley James, sees ‘a certain kind of possibility’ in new role

June 24, 2021

Some of the article below is reprinted from NBC News

By Julianne McShane

The famed museum's first Black full-time curator makes her mark with an exhibit confronting the way history is preserved and told.

Ashley David Heald / Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum

Ashley James always had a tendency to question dominant historical narratives.

Last year, she earned her doctorate from Yale University in English literature and two other fields — African American studies and gender studies — that regularly interrogate the versions of history that have been handed down by mostly white men.

What is shared amongst those fields is this understanding that whiteness and power kind of undergird everything,” James, an associate curator of contemporary art at New York City’s Guggenheim Museum, said.

Now, as the Guggenheim’s first full-time Black curator — a role she assumed in November 2019 — James is translating her academic interests to the institution’s galleries. Her debut exhibition, “Off the Record,” on view through September, features more than two dozen works by 13 contemporary artists — most of whom are Black — that challenge the presumption of objectivity in historical records, journalism and photography.


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