The Underground Museum, a nonprofit gallery and cultural center in Los Angeles, announced on Tuesday that it would close its current exhibition of paintings by museum co-founder Noah Davis early. The announcement also indicated that the museum’s co-directors, Meg Onli and Cristina Pacheco, would be stepping down. Onli had joined as director just two months ago.
“At this time, we ask that everyone give us the space and privacy to understand the future of the museum and heal individually and collectively,” Karon Davis, the museum’s co-founder, wrote in a statement posted on Instagram. . “We just don’t have answers at this time, so we will also be closing the museum until further notice. During this time, we encourage you to engage with the incredible art spaces of our beloved Los Angeles.
The circumstances of Onli and Pacheco’s departures were unclear. Davis appeared to allude to the strained relationship between her family and the directors, saying, “It was also evident how difficult it was for our family to let go enough to allow Meg and Cristina to do their job.” Neither Onli nor Pacheco responded to requests for comment.
Artist couple Noah and Karon Davis founded the Underground Museum in 2012 with the goal of bringing “experiences traditionally reserved for large institutions to diverse audiences for free,” according to a description on the museum’s website. Over the past decade, the institution, located in the predominantly black and Latino neighborhood of Arlington Heights in Los Angeles, has grown into a popular cultural space and community center, with a leafy, inviting garden behind its exhibition space. .
Onli joined the Underground Museum in December as director and curator, coming from the Institute of Contemporary Art in Philadelphia, where she was curator. As director, Onli co-directed the Underground Museum alongside Pacheco, who had been acting co-director and chief operating officer since 2020 and a board member since 2015.
Noah Davis, who died aged 32 in 2015 after battling a rare form of cancer, hosted a variety of shows for the institution, some of which were put on posthumously. Among them were ‘Artists of Color’ (2017), which examined political and social content in seemingly formal abstract works, and ‘Non-fiction’ (2016), which focused on the violence people of color face. . He has also formed a partnership with the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles through former MOCA chief curator Helen Molesworth. This allowed the Underground Museum to borrow iconic works of art from MOCA’s collection for its own presentations.
After Noah’s death, his brother, artist and filmmaker Kahlil Joseph, joined Karon in running the museum. Joseph’s “conceptual journalism” project BLKNWS was included in the 2019 Venice Biennale as well as the Hammer Museum’s 2020 Made in LA Biennial. He also directed music videos for Kendrick Lamar and Beyoncé. Joseph and his wife, film producer Onye Anyanwu, both sit on the board of the Underground Museum.
Over the past two years, the Underground Museum has expanded its programming, launching initiatives such as the $25,000 Noah Davis Prize for Curators, which is supported by the Chanel Culture Fund. The first recipients, announced in September, shortly before Onli was hired, were Candice Hopkins, Jamillah James and Thomas Jean Lax.
At the time of his death, Noah Davis is said to have left behind some 400 paintings, collages and sculptures. His estate is now represented by David Zwirner Gallery, which reportedly sold a $1.4 million painting by the artist at its Art Basel Miami booth in 2021. In April, Davis’ work will be included in the main exhibition of the Venice Biennale.
The exhibition of around 20 lush figurative paintings by Davis which is about to close has arrived at the Underground Museum after appearing at David Zwirner’s New York and London premises. The exhibition was curated by Helen Molesworth, who sits on the museum’s board, and Justen Leroy, an artist and former employee of the institution, and it marked the reopening of the Underground Museum in February after nearly two years pandemic closure. Originally scheduled to run through September 30, the exhibit was Davis’ first solo investigation at the museum.