The Speed Museum’s Breonna Taylor Exhibit: When Art Museums Become Propaganda Agents, It’s Time To Stop Supporting Art Museums

Taylor exhibit

The propaganda, of course, is being nurtured by false narratives elsewhere. NPR, for example, begins its story on the Speed Museum (in Louisville) exhibit “Promise, Witness and Remembrance” this way: “It’s been nearly 13 months since Louisville Metro Police officers shot and killed Taylor in her home.” No, it’s been 13 months since Breonna Taylor was accidentally shot in a gunfire exchange initiated by her boyfriend, after a botched raid on her home triggered by Taylor’s illicit drug activities. The news media and BLM narrative has deceived the public into believing that that an ordinary, innocent medical worker was shot by police because she was black and they were white. This, in turn, has justified false and inflammatory demagoguery by the go-to lawyer for such exploitable cases, Ben Crump, and others, like Al Sharpton.

It is beyond question that Taylor did not deserve to die, and that the Louisville police were at fault, much as George Floyd did not deserve to die. But as with Floyd, the victim of this tragedy should not be sanctified and mythologized, nor should the facts of her death distorted to promote a political agenda. For a non-profit art museum to use its funds and influence for that purpose is beyond unethical: it is an abuse of charitable and public funds, as well as its tax status.

Here is the New York Times gushing over the exhibit:

“Combining works from the Speed’s permanent collection with loans in several cases directly from artists and galleries, the show was assembled and installed (beautifully) in a mere four months. And it was conceived as a direct response to a contemporary news event: the killing, by Louisville police, of Breonna Taylor, a Black 26-year-old medical worker, in March 2020. A posthumous painting of Taylor by the artist Amy Sherald is the exhibition’s centerpiece, accompanied by photographs of local street protests sparked by her death and by the lenient treatment of the white officers involved….Working closely with Taylor’s family, and with the Speed’s community relations strategist Toya Northington, Glenn quickly mustered advisory committees of artists and activists from the city itself and from across the country. In the Speed’s permanent collection, she found solid material to build on, including works by several artists associated with the city. Pieces included a magnificent, warm-as-an-embrace draped painting from 1969 by Sam Gilliam, who grew up in Louisville; a sculptured bronze head of a Black Union soldier by Ed Hamilton, who still lives there; and a suite of strategically altered Ebony magazine pages by Noel W Anderson, who is now based in New York City….Within a time frame most museums would consider impossibly tight, agreements were signed, and pieces began to come in. The last to to be installed, shortly before the opening, was the Sherald portrait which is in the process of being purchased jointly by the Speed and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., with the help of a $1 million donation by two philanthropies, the Ford Foundation and the Hearthland Foundation (run by the actress Kate Capshaw and her husband, the director Steven Spielberg).”

More from NPR:

“In the final section “Remembrance,” the walls are painted deep purple, one of Taylor’s favorite colors. Her mother, Tamika Palmer contributed a work on the walls here, too. She wrote a timeline of Taylor’s life.”I don’t know who else could have told the story,” Palmer says. “I didn’t know how exactly it would even play out. But I just knew that there was a lot of stuff that people still didn’t know about her. … She died so violently, but to know that she was never a violent person.” Palmer says Taylor was easygoing her whole life. They called her “Easy Breezy.””You want people to not forget, to not move on, because the real goal hasn’t been served yet.”And that goal, Palmer says, is justice.”

Justice for what? Taylor’s family received their obligatory millions in a settlement with the city because of the police involvement in her death, though had Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker, not started shooting, Taylor would be alive. There was never any indication that Taylor’s race played any part in her death, but never mind—the narrative, and the underlying message of the Speed exhibit, is that this was a racist murder, and another chapter in the U.S.’s “systemic racism.” It was not, as Professor Turley, among others, have tried to point out.

Nor was Taylor the typical, law-abiding medical worker or a candidate for martyrdom. It was her relationship with her sometime-boyfriend, Jamarcus Glover, that got her killed. He ran a massive crack cocaine and fentanyl business in Louisville. Breonna had, according to phone taps, handled drugs for Glover, bailed Jamarcus out of jail, driven with him to a “trap house” (where the drugs were sold) and allowed him to use her address for his mail, phone bills, a bank account and jail bookings. That’s why her home was raided.

Then there was the incident in 2016, when a man named Fernandez Bowman was found shot eight times—yes, he was dead— in a car rented by saintly Breonna and used by Glover. Police GPS tracking showed that Jamarcus had been to Breonna’s apartment six times in January 2020 alone, and had called her from jail dozens of times since they had allegedly broken up, after Breonna had begun her relationship with Kenneth Walker. The morning after Breonna was killed, Jamarcus was heard to say on a police-recorded phone call, “Bre been handling all my money, she been handling my money. … She been handling shit for me.”

Oddly, none of this is mentioned by the Times, NPR of anywhere in “Promise, Witness and Remembrance.”

11 thoughts on “The Speed Museum’s Breonna Taylor Exhibit: When Art Museums Become Propaganda Agents, It’s Time To Stop Supporting Art Museums

  1. Has anybody ever questioned why Taylor was standing in front of her boyfriend when she was shot. Was he using her as a shield?

      • According to the speaker at the subsequent news conference, Taylor was standing side by side with her boyfriend when she was shot. It also appears that Taylor was named in the search warrant itself. She was no innocent bystander; she was heavily involved with the drug trade, according to several sources. Ann Coulter has written about all of these, but she is not my only source. But we can let the facts interfere with the narrative.

  2. Facts only matter when the target is white. Washington was a slave owner, Columbus mistreated Indians, Churchill was a racist, Reagan was insufficiently sympathetic to people with AIDS, so they can’t be honored, but Breonna Taylor was a saint and a martyr.

    I think the new rule is that white people are to be judged ONLY by what they did wrong, but black people are only to be judged by what they could have done right.

  3. The last to to be installed, shortly before the opening, was the Sherald portrait which is in the process of being purchased jointly by the Speed and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C., with the help of a $1 million donation by two philanthropies, the Ford Foundation and the Hearthland Foundation (run by the actress Kate Capshaw and her husband, the director Steven Spielberg).”

    Ain’t that swell. The painting is being purchased for in excess of one million dollars? One million dollars is not sufficient? These two museums are spending their own acquisitions money as well? I bet Henry Ford is doing back flips in his grave while I’m sure the Spielbergs are piling up virtue points galore. Insanity.

  4. Having visited the Speed Museum several times in years past, I am saddened and disgusted. It is -or was- an excellent place to visit. I had heard that their galleries were closed last year due to the China virus. The museum is located adjacent to the U of L campus and I enjoyed touring it when I was attending training there at McCandless Hall during the early-to-mid 1990s. This is why we can’t have nice things!

  5. I would like to point out that no drugs or suspicious quantities of cash were find in the raid on Taylor’s home. That leaves the unsworn statements of a known criminal as the only evidence she was actually engaged in illicit drug activities.

    But did he have a reason to lie? Well, yes. He was speaking to his current girlfriend after his house has been raided, his drugs and cash seized, along with his own person. He might have thought she would be more likely to stand by him in jail (and put money on his books) if she didn’t think he was dead broke, and so concocted a story about fictitious reserves held by an ex-girlfriend.

    • Could be the reason nothing was found was that the officers failed to conduct the search after the shooting occurred.

      • Her apartment was searched after the shooting. I’m sure the shooting caused some delay, but it’s not as if that scene was going to be left unattended, and of course neither Breonna Taylor nor her boyfriend were in any position to dispose of evidence.

        But even if we accepted, arguendo, that after the shooting police left the scene unattended and accessible to criminal accomplices before searching it, the fact would remain they have no evidence. It would be madness to allow the police to use their own incompetence at gathering evidence in lieu of actual evidence.

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