NPR reported that the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art will post a disclaimer to inform visitors that its “Conversations” exhibition, which contains pieces owned by Bill Cosby and his wife, Camille, is “fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not Mr. Cosby.”
After Cosby confessed to purchasing quaaludes with the intention to drug women for sex, the museum has decided to post the disclaimer, which, Smithsonian spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas explained, will state that the museum does not condone Cosby’s behavior.
The exhibition, which will continue through January 24, 2016, contains 100 works curated by the Smithsonian alongside about 60 pieces donated by the Cosbys. Earlier this week, the Smithsonian confirmed an earlier report by the Associated Press, which stated that Camilla Cosby is on the museum’s advisory board and had donated a whopping $716,000. That gift covered the cost of almost the entire “Conversations” exhibit. The Smithsonian covered the remaining $136,000.
Although the Museum has already placed a statement on its website, the following disclaimer will now appear outside the exhibition:
“A Message to Our Visitors about This Exhibition
Allegations that publicly surfaced when we opened this exhibition in November 2014, now combined with recent revelations about Bill Cosby’s behavior, cast a negative light on what should be a joyful exploration of African and African American art in this gallery.
The National Museum of African Art in no way condones Mr. Cosby’s behavior. We continue to present Conversations: African and African American Artworks in Dialogue because it is fundamentally about the artworks and the artists who created them, not Mr. Cosby.
Most of the objects are from the permanent collection of the National Museum of African Art. About one-third are on loan from Camille and Bill Cosby. Though the exhibition does recognize their role in assembling those works, the purpose of the exhibition is to examine the interplay of artistic creativity in African and African American art — something that has been part of our museum’s history since our founding more than 50 years ago. The exhibition brings public attention to artists whose art has not been seen, art that tells powerful and poignant stories about African American experiences.
We invite you, our valued visitors, to provide your comments in the Visitor Book we have placed in the hallway at the exit to this exhibition. You can also send comments to our website at conversations.africa.si.edu.