Thursday, June 20, 2024

President Biden Appointed Queens Museum Head Curator Lauren Haynes to White House Preservation Committee


PRESIDENT BIDEN APPOINTED 13 MEMBERS to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House, including Lauren Haynes, director of curatorial affairs and programs at the Queens Museum in New York. The advisory committee is primarily composed of citizens selected by the President based on their expertise and scholarship in the areas of historic preservation, architecture, and decorative arts.

Along with Haynes, other new Biden appointees include Leslie Greene Bowman, president emerita of the Thomas Jefferson Foundation; Melissa “Mel” Buchanan, RosaMary Curator of Decorative Arts & Design at the New Orleans Museum of Art; Ethan W. Lasser, John Moors Cabot Chair of the Art of the Americas Department at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; J. Dean Norton, who has been tending the gardens at Mount Vernon Estate since 1969 and currently serves as director of horticulture; and Mary Kathryn (MK) Pritzker, the First Lady of Illinois, who has an academic background in historic preservation.


Lauren Haynes. | Photo by Kevin Beasley


While the White House serves as the President’s home and principal workplace, it is also a National Historic Landmark. The advisory committee establishes policies related the museum functions of the White House; its collections; and design changes to key rooms on the ground floor, state floor (where a series of formal rooms are located, including the Blue Room, Red Room, Green Room, State Dining Room, and East Room, where the President hosts a variety of events), and the historic guest suites on the residence floor of the White House Executive Residence. It is also makes recommendations related to acquisitions.

The White House Collection features a few notable works by African American artists. In 1995, “Sand Dunes at Sunset, Atlantic City” (1893) by Henry O. Tanner, became the first painting by a Black artist to enter the White House Collection. A dozen years later in 2007, the White House acquired a tempera painting by Jacob Lawrence, “The Builders” (1947).

Another first occurred when the White House added a painting by Alma Thomas to the collection in 2014. “Resurrection” (1966), a brightly colored acrylic and graphite on canvas painting with her signature daub marks forming a series of concentric circles, made its debut during Black History Month in 2015. The work was on display in the Old Family Dining Room when First Lady Michelle Obama unveiled her renovation of the room. A pioneering abstract artist, Thomas is the first African American woman to have her work represented in the White House Collection.

The advisory committee establishes policies related the museum functions of the White House and its collections, along with recommendations related to acquisitions.

Haynes joined the Queens Museum in 2022, after a brief stint at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University in Durham, N.C., where she was senior curator. Previously, at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art (2016-21), she was promoted to director of artist initiatives and curator of contemporary art at Crystal Bridges and The Momentary, the museum’s satellite contemporary art space in downtown Bentonville, Ark. Earlier, Haynes spent a decade at the Studio Museum in Harlem, where the last exhibition she organized was a survey of Thomas, the artist’s first major exhibition in three decades.

She is vice president of fundraising on the board of the Association of Art Museum Curators and serves on the visiting committee for the Allen Memorial Art Museum at Oberlin College, her alma mater in Oberlin, Ohio.

First Lady Jill Biden is the honorary chair of the preservation committee and the director of the National Park Service serves as the chair. Lonnie G. Bunch III is a member, based on his position as Secretary of the Smithsonian.

Previous members include Studio Museum in Harlem Director and Chief Curator Thelma Golden; Linda Johnson Rice, chairman and CEO of Johnson Publishing Company; and Bunch, when he was founding director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. CT


FIND MORE See the full list of Biden appointments to the Committee for the Preservation of the White House


READ MORE about the White House acquisition of “Resurrection” by Alma Thomas on Culture Type


Lauren Haynes edited “Speaking of People: Ebony, Jet and Contemporary Art,” among other volumes. Her publications also include “Sarah Cain: Enter the Center” and “Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today.” The catalog “Alma Thomas: Everything is Beautiful” was published on the occasion of the recent traveling exhibition organized by the Columbus Museum and Chrysler Museum of Art. “Alma Thomas” was published to accompany the exhibition organized by the Tang Teaching Museum and Art Gallery at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, N.Y., and the Studio Museum in Harlem, for which Haynes served as co-editor and co-curator. “Alma Thomas Resurrection” documents an exhibition at Mnuchin Gallery in New York City. Also consider the children’s book “Ablaze with Color: A Story of Painter Alma Thomas.” From 1991, “Henry Ossawa Tanner” documents a landmark exhibition organized by the Philadelphia Museum of Art. “Henry Ossawa Tanner: Modern Spirit” and “Across Continents and Cultures: The Art and Life of Henry Ossawa Tanner” accompanied subsequent museum shows. Recent volumes dedicated to Jacob Lawrence include the exhibition catalogs “Black Orpheus: Jacob Lawrence and the Mbari Club,” “Jacob Lawrence: The American Struggle,” and “Jacob Lawrence: The Migration Series.”


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