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Guggenheim Museum hires first Black deputy director and chief curator

New York's Guggenheim Museum has appointed its first-ever Black deputy director and chief curator. Naomi Beckwith, formerly the senior curator at Chicago' museum of contemporary art, was named to the role Thursday after former artistic director and chief curator Nancy Spector stepped down amid accusations of racism.

"I'm excited to join the Guggenheim and its passionate team at a pivotal moment, Beckwith said in a statement Thursday. "I look forward to merging our shared goals of expanding the story of art, and also working to shape a new reality for arts and culture."

The museum said Beckwith will "oversee collection, exhibitions, publications, curatorial programs, and archives" at the museum's New York location, as well as add direction to other Guggenheim locations around the world. 

Her position also gives her a seat on the executive leadership team where she will "play an instrumental role in shaping the museum's vision," according to the museum. She will start her new role in June. 

The museum's director, Richard Armstrong, said leadership looks forward to working with Beckwith. "With her highly regarded accomplishments, scholarship that contributes to building a revised canon of art history, and creative projects that connect artists of today with growing audiences, Naomi Beckwith will be a catalytic leader for our outstanding curatorial team," Armstrong said in a statement. 

The news comes three months after Spector stepped down amid accusations of racism. Chaédria LaBouvier, a former guest curator, accused the Guggenheim of racism during her time curating the Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibition.

While the museum cleared Spector of wrongdoing after an internal investigation, she left in October to "pursue other curatorial endeavors and to finish her doctoral dissertation," after almost 34 years at the museum. 

Beckwith, 44, has a long history of excellence in the curatorial arts. As a senior curator at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art, she organized exhibitions and publications surrounding "the impact of identity." She was previously the associate curator at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

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