“Guarding the Art” is a special exhibition at the Baltimore Museum of Art – one curated entirely by its security team.
Some time ago, museum trustee Amy Elias realized that no one spent more time with the art than the guards patrolling the museum. Not the experts, not the curators, and certainly not the trustees.
“And so I went home at night and I thought, well, wouldn’t it be interesting to hear from the guards about what pieces of work they find most meaningful?” Elias told CNN.
So Elias approached the security team at the Baltimore Museum of Art, asking if curating an exhibition would interest them, and many leapt at the chance.
One of the guards, Rob Kempton, was already here more for the art than the job. Patrolling the museum was his first job in security, and it inspired him to complete a degree in Museum Studies at Johns Hopkins University since he was hired in 2016.
“Working at the BMA,” he said, “being surrounded by art, as something that struck me as important.”
The guards who signed up worked with curators and exhibit designers in a two-year process to create “Guarding the Art” from the ground up. They selected 25 works, designed the installation, created the content for the exhibition catalog, and planned visitor tours and other programs to accompany it all.
“What’s most interesting is that, (through) the pieces of art that are selected, you learn about the guards and why they collect them, through the stories they tell that are attached to each piece,” Elias said.
For instance, Kempton’s choice was two abstract paintings by different artists: Grace Hartigan’s Interior, “The Creeks” (1957) and Alma Thomas’s Evening Glow (1972). Both paintings are ones he’s found himself repeatedly drawn to over the years, and ones he’s always tried to direct visitors’ attention to.
“I hope that visitors come away from this with a new experience, and that they’re sort of challenged and inspired by seeing such disparate objects in conversation with each other,” he added.