How Curator Sheena Wagstaff Chooses Art for the Met

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S1: This ad free podcast is part of your Slate plus membership. The Metropolitan Museum has these incredible historic collections. You come through that entrance. You’ve gone up the bizarre staircase. You’ve already felt slightly belittled in the temple of culture. What you can do with modern contemporary art at a place like the Met is complicated. That that story. That narrative.

S2: Hello and welcome back to Working. I’m your host, Isaac Butler, and I’m your other host, Vermont alarm room on. I know that you have been reviewing up a storm lately. I’ve been loving reading your book reviews, but I’m just wondering, how is that been going?

S3: Well, I’m very lucky that that my entirely nonessential job is writing about books. You know, I learned that as a kid that I could take a book with me and escape from wherever my family had dragged me to. And now that I’m trapped at home, I can escape from that reality by reading. And it’s still technically my job.

S2: It’s great. I’m very excited for listeners to get to know Sheena Wagstaff. Our guest this week. Can you tell us a little bit about her and what she does?

S3: She know up as a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art Shiina overseas. They’re modern and contemporary art. So in her capacity there, she works on the programming at the Met Broyer, which is an offshoot of the main museum. The Met Broyer is located in the former Whitney Museum of American Art, which is this brutalist 1966 building where Marcel Broyer, it’s a really beautiful building on the Upper East Side. And, you know, the Met is, of course, known as a great encyclopedic museum and has a little bit of everything. And historically, it hasn’t been that strong on the art of the current moment. The Met broilers programming has been a response to that, a way of challenging that since it opened in 2016. They’ve mounted shows on Diane Arbus and Lucille Fontana on Via Spellman’s and Kerry James Marshall.

S2: Interesting. And that’s, of course, something she talked about in the clip we heard at the top of the show. You know, the map really isn’t known for contemporary art. It’s this all inspiring temple to history. And that can be a difficult thing to change.

S3: I think that’s a big part of the reason why Shiina moved from London to New York. She was a curator at the Tate Modern. But I think the reason that she’s here is to change that. It’s a formidable mandate. But, you know, it’s clear even just from talking to her for an hour that she nowise staff is the kind of person who can meet that challenge.

S2: Well, I can’t wait to go behind the scenes at the Met Broyer with you and Sheena Wagstaff. Let’s take a listen.

S4: I’m sure in Brooklyn, you’re in London, and we’re going to talk about an exhibition that’s on the Upper East Side of New York right now. You are a curator. What does that mean?

S1: The word curator is used to describe anything from a design selection in IKEA to someone who creates a hot dog. And so the original meaning of curator way back meant a guardian or a keeper of works of art in a museum. And of course, that has changed exponentially over the last couple of decades. I would say where a curator becomes much more of a Jack or Jill of all trades. And where the keeping of works of art, the maintaining the research of these objects and artifacts within the museum is augmented and expanded into something that is very much of the world that we will exist in, which means that we create exhibitions of art, bringing in loans from different museums and private collectors across the world. According to an idea or a concentration of one, a particular artist’s work, we do a lot of administration that goes along with it, paperwork, et cetera. We do a lot of thrilling research, which is original research. Well, with regard to modern and contemporary and I’m talking about a curator who deals with this moment of our lives where artists are our peers, where they’re of our generation older or younger, which is a different, slightly different kind of approach to the way that one makes exhibitions, particularly to historic curators who only deal with the art of dead artists. And so it’s much less complicated. As a result, the thrilling thing about working with contemporary artists, with living artists, is that they really are the canaries in the mine. They are the harbingers of what is to come. They very often think through. The circumstances in which we all find ourselves and come to a conclusion well before the rest of us had done so and articulate that in many, many different ways, whether it’s through film or painting or even performance, you know, you spoke before maybe that an historical understanding of what a curator’s role is, is as a guardian or a steward.

S4: And what you’re talking about, especially with respect to working on contemporary art. Is the curator who’s kind of an author, you as a curator, as an intellect or rejecting the notion of a singular canon. But you are also bearing the responsibility for shaping whatever the canon looks like after you and I are both dead.

S1: In some ways, by virtue of being in an institution like the Metropolitan Museum, I wouldn’t use the word shaping, which is to direct a word. I think it is more we act as producers in a way. The people who shape art history to a greater, lesser degree are artists. But how they get to that point is very much under the auspices of the curator. So I think in creating a thematic exhibition, a curator will make a selection of particular artists and not of other artists in that process. I think yes, maybe you’re right. I mean, they determine the artists who fit a particular kind of thematic idea that should if it is a good exhibition, a good thematic exhibition, the idea should come out of the work. It should not be imposed on the work.

S4: So you’re not approaching it with a particular agenda of saying, I’m going to make sure all of this is Norwegian artists are represented in the canon 50 years from now. What you’re saying is that your approaches I’m interested in the way painting interrogates this issue. And these are the artists who are doing that and therefore they belong in this conversation. Precisely. Thank you. Yeah. I’m curious when one aspect of the work in particular that you do that I’m so curious about and you touched on this a bit, is the idea of the curators relationship to the museums collecting? When I think of the Metropolitan Museum and I think in the imagination, people think of this great encyclopaedic institution that has just bought from throughout history. And there is of course, there’s a contemporary dimension to that. But the Metropolitan Museum has always kind of deferred, I think, to its neighbors in New York, at least like them, the Museum of Modern Art. Was that a particular challenge for you or an excitable challenge to go to this institution with the mandate to start acquiring the art of this moment?

S1: Yes, it brings with it a challenge, not least because the Metropolitan Museum had not truly engaged with the modern idiom or thought about contemporary art in any sort of depth for many decades. And yes, with regards to being given a mandate to collect modern and contemporary art in an environment and in a city where there are other institutions who are doing exactly that. So how do you distinguish yourself from all those other collecting institutions? The obvious answer to that is that the Metropolitan Museum has these incredible historic collections, as you just pointed out. And all of those collections, whether they are in the traditional mode of an encyclopedic museum, you come through that entrance. You’ve gone up the bizarre staircase. You’ve already felt slightly belittled in the whole of culture. So, boom, you’ve got, you know, the traditional scenario right there. What you can do with modern and contemporary art and a place like the Met is complicate that that story, that narrative in a really interesting way. You have, for instance, if you’re thinking about ancient Egyptian art and you think about what’s happening now in Egypt, what happened after the spring revolution, if you think about what happened in the 1920s and 30s, where there was a completely separate autonomous history of surrealism, not taking its cue from Western surrealism, but nonetheless and also artists who have been born and brought up in Egypt and maybe educated elsewhere, but are still making really interesting art in Cairo, in Alexandria and, you know, in different places. So you automatically have through the auspices perhaps of a national approach, which again has its own difficulties. But nonetheless, it’s it draws on the deep histories of an Egyptian culture, which many artists do draw on. Other artists decide that actually they are going to create through their work a rupture with that history and where they see themselves far more as international artists rather than Egyptian artists.

S4: So, look, let’s just continue this example of let’s say you were in Cairo and you saw some project at the gallery that you just absolutely fell in love with and you felt that there was a real there was an artist who was doing something really interesting that you hadn’t seen before and you felt the museum has to have this thing. How does it work? How does a curator go to the museum and say, I need eleven million dollars because we need to own this thing? How does that work? Well, first we have a starting point. It was a million dollars. Well, then my acquisition budget.

S1: Well, first of all, let me let me just go back one step before that. One of the other issues that I’m very aware of and concerned about is that as curators, we are not seen as sort of helicoptering our way into areas of the world with which we have very little expertise. You know, in my team, for instance, there is a curator who was brought up in Cairo. Her parents still live there. And she spends a lot of time there. So when a work of art is identified in a studio by me or by her or by one of the rest of our team, we have a pretty good idea about the context in which it has arisen to begin with. And we would like to include this in our collection. So what what is the next stage? The next stage would be that ideally we would have a conservative go out and take a look at it so that we know that it’s sound enough to travel the sound enough to carry on existing as opposed to something, you know, deconstructing. And once we have that, we then will ship the work to the Met. But in the meantime, and these are all parallel strands, we will be looking to raise money from people who either know the artist’s work or who are sympathetic to this type of work. It comes into the museum and then we have a whole range of different processes whereby the trustees see the work, the senior leadership sees the work, the museum curators make, write, write ups for it. So they describe it. They contextualize it. They specify how important. This work is to the collection. What other works? We could show it with. So, for instance means there is more a work of art that is currently on display, inaccessible right now. But at the Met Broyer in a new exhibition called Home is a Foreign Place. There’s a work there by a Sudanese artist. One of the sort of great figures of Sudan, modern art called Ibrahim El Salahi. When we presented that to the acquisitions committee and which is comprised of trustees, I think it was quite a. Challenge for some of the trustees to understand how important Salahi is.

S4: Yeah. So then your role or part of your responsibility, that may not be immediately evident. The public is educating the people within your institution and hoping that if you are presenting a work by a contemporary Sudanese artist in that group of trustees, someone who says, oh, that’s fascinating. I love this. I believe in this. And not only should we spend our money on it. I want to write you a check. I want you to meet my friend who cares very deeply about sub-Saharan Africa. And she will love this. And she will want to support this and give it as a gift to the museum. So you have to be a bit of like a carnival barker, like an educator, but also kind of an enthusiast for the work that you, yourself or your team are passionate about. Yes.

S1: He hasn’t. And a passion is not so difficult. Right. Right. It’s it’s there. And it’s palpable. I think.

S2: We’ll be right back with more of Reman alarms conversation with curator Sheena Wagstaff after this.

S5: One of the things we’d love to do with this show is help solve your creative problems, whether it’s a specific challenge about your work or a big question about inspiration or discipline. Send it to us at working at Slate dot com. If and when we can, we’ll put those questions to our esteemed guests.

S2: Welcome back to the show. I’m Isaac Butler. This week, Ruman Alarm is talking to Sheena Wagstaff. She’s a curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, focusing on modern and contemporary work. Ruman, before we dive back in, I know you talked to Sheena about her latest show at the Met Broyer, and it’s one I was looking forward to seeing. So can you tell our listeners a bit about it?

S3: You and me both right now at the Met-Pro here, there’s an exhibition that no one can see. It’s called Gerhard Richter Painting, after all. And it’s not a retrospective. So it’s not an examination of the arc of his long life and career, but it’s a study of Richter’s interests in abstraction and photography. And it resolves in his commitment to painting itself.

S2: Rechter has a really special place in my heart. In some ways, I feel like there was that MoMA retrospective of him in like 2002 or 2003. And I just fell in love with his work and it felt like the first artist I had discovered and fallen in love with on my own, as opposed to it being kind of bequeathed to me because my grandparents were in the art world and I was just sort of surrounded by their taste while growing up. And I particularly fell for a subset of Richter’s painting that I’m guessing is a major part of this show, which is his squeegee work. Can you tell us a little bit about that?

S3: One of my favorite things about Rechter is that he gives the lie to that complaint about modern art. A child could have done that because he’s this slick, incredibly skilled photo realist painter when he’s interested in doing that. And he’s not always interested in doing that. He’s also very enchanted by pure abstraction. And so he will paint on a canvas, sometimes just a simple geometric or sometimes even a realist painting, and then he’ll use a length of plastic that is really just a squeegee to take paint and smear or obscure the image that he’s just created with more paint. And so he kind of erases the image and then he erases the trace of both his hand and his brushwork. And the finished paintings are purely abstract and they have this very dense and strange texture because of how the plastic has worked over them. It’s a really innovative and odd technique. And we actually have audio of the artist at work wielding one of his plastic squeegees over a canvas.

S2: Wow, you can really hear the intensity with which he does that. Justin, that that sound. That’s amazing. And of course, we should say, one of the other things about this show at the Met Broyer is that it was only open for nine days before the museum had to close due to Cauvin 19. I’m really fascinated to hear you to talk about that and about Richter’s mysterious and beautiful work. Let’s take a listen.

S4: One of the things that was on my to do list right before all of this sort of unfolded was to go to see painting after all the exhibition about her picture at the Broyer. And I wondered if you could tell me a little bit about where the idea bubbled up that the Metropolitan Museum should do an exhibition under her picture and how long an exhibition like that is in the works before it’s on the walls of an institution?

S1: I’ve known Haddrick staff for a very long time, not very well until, of course, this exhibition. And he was in New York briefly for an exhibition at Commercial Gallery. Marion Goodman and I had lunch with him and I asked him whether he would consider working with me on a project at the Met. And he was very clear and very straightforward. And he basically said, no, I can’t do it because I have a certain point in my in my lifespan if I don’t feel I need to do anymore exhibitions, I need to spend the remaining years I have in the studio. And then probably a couple of years after their service probably was six years ago and four years ago. He then contacted me and said, I think I actually might be interested in doing something at the Met. So we started talking and as a result of the conversation that I had with my co curator, Benjamin Book Flow, who is the professor of art history at Harvard, who is a very, very long time friend and interlocutor, the principal interlocutor of Gifted Trickster. We sat down and started thinking about a different kind of exhibition. There’ve been so many rich exhibitions in the world, there’s no point in doing another one unless it contributes to thinking a new about the work. So we came up with this idea, which was to take a cue for the show from this series that Gephardt did from 2014, which he called the Burkean our series. And they are four large paintings that are based on four photographs that are the only extant photographs taken by prisoners during the time of their imprisonment in Auschwitz Birkenau. The idea being that we didn’t want to fetishize the serious, but at the same time we wanted to demonstrate the fact that Reached has throughout his entire life. Born the knowledge that he had both a personal connection as well as a responsibility to represent, as most German obsesses that generation do a collective responsibility for what happened. In the mid 20th century in Germany, from that point, we then grew this exhibition that then ended up coming to hearts to it. One was back now and one is the so-called Cage series, which is his homage to John Cage.

S4: Is it useful to you to have the artist at your disposal to be able to hammer out an intellectual point, or is there ever a moment where that’s actually disruptive to the work of creating an exhibition where your idea is at odds with the artist’s agenda of preserving his or her own legacy?

S1: You make a very good point, and that is an extremely good question. And it varies, of course, from artist artist. And while some artists are very, very good self filters and stuff editors, others are not. There is usually a propensity amongst many artists to perhaps for sake more of the earlier work in preference for the later work. There is also another propensity of artists to fit as much as they possibly can in an exhibition at which time, you know, you end up as a visitor coming out on your hands and knees bent. And so when you work with someone like your average there who has got over 60 years of work behind him, who is a lot more phlegmatic and practical about the ability of any exhibition to bear testament to his his entire career, he’s also remarkable because he has an ongoing critical doubt about the viability of his artistic practice. So at the same time, he’s having this incredible facility and inventor of this medium in a way, you know, per the squeegees or maybe a different kind of approach to abstraction all together at the same time. He often touts himself to have come to a series like Baxano and deal with that in the only way he knows how to shoot painting and to come to a moment when the possibility of rendering that in a pictorial way, in a recognizable way, as if it was a painting of a photograph and decide ultimately that although he’d set out to do that, he wasn’t able to do it, and therefore he moved to abstraction. That wasn’t a failure. That was an alternative route. That was the only route possible for him.

S4: He realized I mean, there is a lesson in there for any artist. I think to hear an artist of that stature and that standing and those decades of practice consider their own attempt at something to not have worked like. That’s a good lesson, I think, to approach your work always with that kind of. Is this actually succeeding? What I’m intending to do. I hear it’s really hard to tell in hearing you talk about Richard’s work. But is it important for you? Is it important for any curator to love the work that you’re putting together? To have that sort of special spark of like, oh, I Sheena Wagstaff happened to just love this painting and it made me cry and it made me feel this way. And that’s why I wanted to this show.

S1: It’s odd because once you have gone through the very intense period of working together with an artist and making an exhibition, you never quite know how you going to end up. If you want to say, I worked with I have fallen out of love with the work at the end. Other artists, I feel, you know, I’ve done the best job that I could do and that he or she had could do. And it was a good job done. And it went out into the world. And it was, you know, it was good all the way through. And then there were some artists. And Gavrik, it is one of them where I end up actually having more questions about the practice than I did at the beginning. One spent so much time and during the installation process, which was quite a lengthy one, because it’s quite a large show. And to have the ability to actually spend time looking at these paintings and working out what Richardo was intending to create, how he was responding to photography, watch those two very, very shadowy figures mean in the back of a of a facade of a building that was otherwise unremarkable. All these questions remain. Not so much to do with his choice of a subject matter, but how he painted them. I mean, when you look at his abstract paintings, you cannot work out how he does them. And yet they have this extraordinary John, you and I may not like them or either, you know, I mean, I certainly would not want to live with many of them, but that’s not the point. Right.

S4: So the only way I could see the exhibition is to look at the catalog and to look at a PDAF of the cup of us. And there is a funny intellectual resonance there because, of course, the artist is rendering and paint something he might have seen in the photograph or read rethinking something like this painting September from 2005, which is a painting of a news service photograph or might even be a video still of a plane striking the World Trade Center. And so I’m looking at a PDAF on my computer screen of an image that a man painted on a canvas from having seen pixels on a screen reproduced in newsprint. It’s just a remarkable tunnel. And there isn’t that kind of amped about experiencing the work that way. But I wonder if you think, especially since you work on contemporary art, which might include video or performance or other sort of ephemeral acts of art, what you think about the imperative to see art inside of a museum versus in the pages of a book?

S1: I think you answer your own question. In highlighting that moment of 9/11, there was an absolute surge of visitorship to museums in that time. And I’m not sure I can articulate this very fully. But there is something incredibly consoling about the fact of the object, the direct relationship one has with something that is as physical as your own body and the fact that we are now going through these periods of not even being able to touch one another where relationship to one another, just as yours and mine is right now, is unique through a series of screens. I think that intellectually, that number of removes in terms of creating image of of an image, of another image, of another image through different types of media is an extraordinarily rich one to explore. You know, ultimately, it is about painting. It is about the surface. It is about understanding that when you’re standing in front of one of those Becknell paintings and you see the crevices and extraordinarily distressed surface of layer after layer after layer of paint that he does, that he scratches back. You cannot get any of that experience or any of that sense, that visual, tactile sense by looking at an image on the screen. And so, you know, that is why painting is so vital, not just because it shows that visceral and shares that visceral experience, but also because it becomes ultimately, when you think about it, a metaphor for your own way of thinking, your own way of remembering things. The photographic image is always one that as soon as it is taken, it’s over. It’s always in the past. So he’s responding to those old photographs from 1945. Yeah. And yet he’s making them fresh through painting. It is present. It’s absolutely relevant to now.

S4: How does it feel to you personally to have labor to this exhibition with the partnership of the artist himself and your and your curators and all of the, you know, everyone that the lenders, the trustees, the people who are hanging the work on the wall and then not to have the ability of the audience to arrive and experience like what’s that feels you emotionally and personally. And then further to that. I’m curious to know from you, because this is what you do for a living when we are all able to go back to the museums, whether it’s the Met or just our local historical society, how should we be looking at a work of art? So many casual museum goers feel like their reading of something isn’t valid or they don’t know enough. And clearly, you’re someone who knows a ton about this. You know, you’re as informed as it’s possible to be. How can someone without that level of education or that level of information look at a work and take something away from it?

S1: I think one of the things that anyone who goes to museums should be aware of and remember is. They bring with them every single person, even if it’s an eight year old little girl, they bring with them a wealth of their life’s experience with them. And the ability to understand what you’re looking at starts always with one’s physical response to something so you can look at a painting even if it’s abstract and work out or try to work out how it’s made. The actual facture of a painting is super interesting and you are only rewarded if you look at things properly. To answer your first question. Of course, I’m sad, of course I’m disappointed, but I’m more disappointed, frankly, for the artist than I am for any of us. There are so many artists we know in the greater New York area, even in our own local facility. So many painters who draw on that great tradition that Richard has established. That’s what I regret most of all, is that so many of those artists won’t get to see that because that’s the next generation or the next couple of generations. Those are the people who will take that tradition for those are the people who will redefine painting again and again, just like Kerry James Marshall did in his time, just like Derek Adams is doing now. No one is. It is in such a direct lineage, but everyone is aware of Rechter and everyone is aware of the need. I think for the submersion of the ego that then leads to more self questioning. That itself then also leads to greater works of art.

S4: As a result, I think what you’re what you’re saying in so many words is that it matters.

S1: It matters. And also there’s more to learn and we can learn from it. It’s not just about consolation in difficult times. It’s also because there’s something that goes further than the measly lifespan of each of us. And that is what a museum stands for. It actually speaks to the endurance of humankind. It also speaks, of course, the injustice of humans upon one another. And that is our job as curators to ensure that that injustice is both exposed but also worked towards in order to rectify it.

S4: Well, you know, I really want to see the show. I hope that it reopens soon.

S1: The fact that it isn’t visible at the moment to anyone is one of my sort of enduring sadnesses, I guess. And there is some strange comfort, I think, in the fact that I know that all of these paintings and these glass sculptures are there civil majestically just waiting for the doors open. Yeah. Though you and I are gonna be there on that first day it reopens. I promise you.

S4: Yes, I’m ready. I’m ready.

S2: Reman listening to that. I just couldn’t help but feel for her. You know, it must be really hard to work on something like this. It’s it’s one of the last major museum shows of Richter’s life. And even though it’s not a retrospective, a kind of a summation of sorts. And then it just gets disrupted by this completely random thing. It’s really must be hard.

S3: It is very sad. I think it’s I think you’re right. It’s not a retrospective, but it’s definitely the closing argument in making the case that returns this major, major figure. And, you know, Shiina spoke so beautifully about why it’s a disappointment that it’s a disappointment not just for people like you and me who love to go to museums and wander around for a couple of hours, but that it’s a disappointment to the working artists and the young artists who rely on going to see the work of their contemporaries or the contemporary Masters and Digest’s in their own practice. So I really loved when Shiina spoke a little bit about museums being full after 9/11, because I think that that’s exactly how this moment feels, that we’re yearning for some kind of comfort that art can provide. But of course, at this particular moment, it’s not safe for us to be together like that.

S2: Yeah. You know, I work sometimes in theater and obviously many of my friends work in it much more than I do. And this is a thing that everyone’s talking about right now. You know, particularly when your art form involves people sitting in close quarters in a small room being spat on. It’s like really difficult to imagine what the future looks like. But at the same time, these arts have existed for thousands of years. They are a part of the human condition. And how we find a way back to that, I think is a really important question we’re all asking right now.

S3: I think people have been very clever about using technology to fill in some of the gaps, which has been somewhat helpful.

S2: Yes, that’s absolutely true. In in all sorts of different spheres, people are doing that. And the Met, in fact, has done that because you can see a version of the show online. And one of the wonderful things about that is that you can also see this really great documentary about Rechter in which he says something about painting that just really struck me in my life. So it was a feeling of life because who knows? So what he’s saying here is to talk about painting is not only difficult, but perhaps pointless, too. You can only express in words what words are capable of expressing what language can communicate. Painting has nothing to do with that. That includes the typical question. What are you thinking? You can’t think of anything. Painting is another form of thinking.

S3: That little bit of audio is taken from current events as 2012 film Gearhead Richter Painting, which you can watch now on the Met’s website. It’s a really wonderful documentary that shows exactly what it promises. The Artist at work. There’s also a video tour of the exhibition and some stills of the various works that are in the show.

S2: Ruman you and I are both writers and we’re also both critics. And we’re really used to writing about things in the way that Rechter seems to be resisting here. We want to describe them. We want to probe them for meaning and and that’s important. But Rechter is also saying that he and his work and in fact, maybe even painting in general, resist those impulses in some way. What do you what do you think about that?

S3: Well, I think it’s a brilliant defensive position. Obviously, he’s smart enough to know that he doesn’t want what he does to be subject to your and my commentary. But I also think that he’s accomplished enough in his career to understand that all of that meaning will always be filled in. You take the simple fact that her daughter was born in 1932 that establishes most of the context with which you will always greet his work. It’s work about German history and then therefore it’s work about human history, and it’ll always be locked in that context. And so whether or not he says anything doesn’t change that. And in fact, the less he says, the more time he has to be in the studio painting.

S2: Right. Right. And it’s also a good reminder, I think, that there are parts of art in all forms that are just ineffable. They exist outside of ourselves. They’re not rational. They’re difficult to contain in language. And that’s even true of the art of criticism, I think.

S3: I think if you took a child to go look at Yahud Victor’s paintings, the paintings that grapple directly with Germany during the Second World War, for example, a child could look at those paintings and appreciate them as beautiful works of art because they are. And so what you’re talking about is just pure beauty. And it doesn’t require defense. It doesn’t require thinking through it. Does it require explication? It’s just something that you can to experience and enjoy.

S2: And that, of course, brings us right back to Sheena Wagstaff, because so much of her job is about framing these artists, putting their work in context for viewers and even figuring out which of these artists get. Reach viewers in the first place.

S3: I think you have to be really smart and really gutsy and really thoughtful and just sort of do the best you can. But yes, when you are a part of an institution like the Met, you are exercising tremendous, tremendous power. So when the Met Broyer mounts a show of Kerry James Marshall, for example, essentially what it’s saying is this person is one of the greats. This person is somebody you have to take seriously, who we need to talk about. And that’s a wonderful discharge of that particular authority. And I think, yes, people like Shiina, people who are curators, they wield tremendous influence. And I think in our conversation, you heard that she is aware of that and that she is just trying to do her best.

S2: Well, be gutsy, be thoughtful and do your best is as good a takeaway as any from this really wonderful conversation. So thank you so much for Mom. That’s our show for this week. If you enjoyed it, please consider signing up for Slate plus Slate.

S3: Plus, members get benefits like zero ads on any Slate podcast bonus episodes of shows like Slow Burn and Your Prudence and you’ll be supporting the work we do here on working. It’s only thirty five dollars for the first year and you can a free two week trial now at Slate dot com slash working plus.

S2: Thank you to Sheena Wagstaff for being our guest this week. An enormous thanks to producer extraordinaire Cameron Drewes.

S3: We’ll be back next week for a conversation between Isaac and the documentary theatre makers. Erik Jensen and Jessica Blank, thanks for listening. Now get back to work.