MoMA Doing More to Ensure Safe Space for Black Visitors After Heather Agyepong’s Ejection from Museum

The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York is apologetic.

British artist Heather Agyepong was reportedly kicked out of artists Navild Acosta‘s and Fannie Sosa‘s “Black Power Naps” installation, an event the museum hosted to highlight safety and rest for Black visitors.

According to The Art Newspaper, Agyepong posted the incident to Twitter on March 25, explaining that she addressed a white woman who was laughing loudly at the installation.

“I think the space is [centered] around Black people,” the artist told the white visitor, who complained to museum employees that Agyepong was being aggressive. Agyepong was then asked to leave.

“To go through what happened was pretty heart-breaking. After I shared my experience [on Twitter], it got even worse as other people sent me their own troubling incidents at MoMa,” Agyepong said in a statement. “The museum reached out to me offering another pass to visit and lunch. They also told me that they would put more signs up and further training for staff. This feels like words instead of action.”

“I asked for a public apology, not just for me but all those affected, and some concrete action,” she added. “I asked for genuine policy change to ensure all visitors would be protected, especially those of color.”

The museum is working to “protect the experiences of Black visitors and visitors from Indigenous communities and communities of color,” a spokesperson for MoMA told The Art Newspaper. “We reached out to Heather Agyepong and apologized. We are committed to presenting programs that move race equity values forward and we acknowledge there will be challenges to work through and learn from as we support and invite artists and audiences to engage on these important issues.”

Regarding the incident, Acosta said the artists’ attempts “to create direct action, racial sensitivity trainings, outreach, and social media campaigns” around the installation “were not resourced” by the museum.

“We insisted as soon as we were first contacted that this piece needed a serious commitment to anti-racism and that not doing so could warrant violence to our community, and we have been insisting ever since,” Acosta said. “It is only now that they are recognizing how urgent this is and willing to remunerate this labor. It’s been an uphill battle. In January, we ourselves were told to be quiet in our own installation by a white visitor.”