December 10, 2021

The Way Forward? Art Museums and the Age of Crises

Even before the Covid crisis forced museums to close their doors, the thorny issues of ownership of objects, equity and social justice, and sources of funding rocked the museum world.

Now, as art museums slowly emerge from the pandemic-related closures, what has changed and what needs to be changed? How can museums become the places for racial reckoning as well as racial healing? Are we at an inflection point that will lead to true transformation or changes at the margins, leading to a new status quo?

Join museum directors and scholars in a conversation about the need and the possibilities for a new vision for art museums in the United States, Europe, and India.

About the Panelists:

Dr. Arjun Appadurai, Goddard Professor (Emeritus) in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University

Dr. Arjun Appadurai is Goddard Professor (Emeritus) in Media, Culture, and Communication at New York University and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the Max-Planck Institute for Social Anthropology in Halle (Germany). He is an internationally recognized contemporary social-cultural anthropologist. He has authored numerous books and scholarly articles on the cultural dynamics of globalization and has held various professorial chairs and visiting appointments at top institutions, including Honorary Professor in the Department of Media and Communication, Erasmus University, Rotterdam, Tata Chair Professor at The Tata Institute for Social Sciences, Mumbai, and Senior Research Partner at the Max-Planck Institute for Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Gottingen.

Anne Pasternak, Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum

Since 2015, Anne Pasternak has served as the Shelby White and Leon Levy Director of the Brooklyn Museum. For more than thirty years, she has devoted her career to engaging broad audiences with the limitless power of art to move, motivate, and inspire. A staunch advocate for the civic and democratic roles our cultural and educational institutions can play, Anne is committed to projects that demonstrate the crucial links between art and social justice.

Kamini Sawhney, Director, Museum of Arts & Photography, Bangalore, India

As the Museum of Art & Photography’s (MAP) first Director, Kamini Sawhney has brought together a young, inspired team that is focused on creating a new museum experience for audiences in India. Sawhney has helped shape a vision for MAP that seeks to inspire people to interact with art in ways that encourage humanity, empathy, and a deeper understanding of the world we live in. She has been a vocal ambassador for MAP presenting the institution’s plans and aspirations at various fora including the India Art Fair, at workshops at the CSMVS, Mumbai (Museums and the City), the Bangalore Literary Festival, and the Bangalore International Centre.

Matthew Teitelbaum, Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Matthew Teitelbaum has served as Ann and Graham Gund Director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston (MFA), since August 2015. Under his leadership, the 150-year-old Museum has introduced new initiatives, programs, and partnerships to invite, welcome, and engage diverse audiences and build a more inclusive community of visitors, staff, volunteers, and supporters. Notable exhibitions during Teitelbaum’s tenure have engaged with timely issues, presented new curatorial scholarship, and incorporated the perspectives and expertise of outside voices.


Dr. Vishakha N. Desai, Chair of the Committee on Global Thought, President Emerita, Asia Society

Dr. Vishakha N. Desai is the project director of “Politics of Visual Arts,” Chair of the Committee on Global Thought, and Senior Advisor for Global Affairs to the President of Columbia University. She served as President and CEO of the Asia Society from 2004 through 2012. A notable scholar of Indian Art, Dr. Desai was instrumental in developing one of the first sustained programs of Asian and Asian American contemporary art exhibitions in the U.S. Under her leadership, Asia Society established new centers in Korea and India and inaugurated two architectural facilities in Hong Kong and Houston. In recognition of her museum leadership, President Obama appointed her to the National Museum and Library Services Board.

This program is part of the research project on Politics of Visual Arts of the Committee on Global Thought at Columbia University. It is supported by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.