This February, Pace will present an exhibition opening the gallery’s private library to the public for the first time.
A culmination of a six-month partnership between radical archiving project Black Lunch Table, Kristen Owens, the organization’s Wikimedia fellow and a curator and librarian, and Pace, the exhibition, curated by Owens, features a reading room highlighting a selection of titles from Pace’s massive library of over 11,000 volumes of essays, monographs, and art books
The Pace x Black Lunch Table initiative grew out of discussions at the gallery beginning in 2020 over how Pace “could contribute to creating a culture that prioritizes the representation of diverse voices,” Amelia Redgrift, Pace’s chief communications and marketing officer, told ARTnews.
Since 2005, Black Lunch Table has worked to archive the lives and work of Black artists, most prominently by expanding or adding Wikipedia pages for Black artists and cultural figures, such as Fred Moten, Meschac Gaba, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, and Valerie Cassel Oliver.
Seeing an alignment between Black Lunch Table’s mission and Pace’s diversity efforts, in 2020, Redgrift, Black Lunch Table Wikimedia Director Eliza Myrie, and others from both teams began a series of brainstorming sessions to foster a collaboration. The first fruit of the partnership came in 2021, when Pace presented a Juneteenth photo booth event at its New York flagship space.
The Wikimedia Fellowship, launched in September, was the next evolution of Pace x Black Lunch Table; Owens, the librarian for African American & Black Diaspora Studies at New York University, was selected as the inaugural fellow. Through the fellowship, Owens was given access to the gallery’s 60-year archive to bring stories of marginalized artists to the forefront of Pace’s public programming.
For Owens, the hope is that the reading room will spark critical conversations on accessibility to historical knowledge, furthering her own work on “information access” as an educational programmer and librarian.
“It was a perfect way to combine my research as a scholar and my work as an information professional,” Owens told ARTnews.
Owens is also spearheading a program of digital content and public programming throughout February that will highlight once-underrepresented Black artists on Pace’s roster.
Owens’ scholarship has long centered around Black visual culture and its frequent absence or erasure from the historical record. Central to that work, and the upcoming exhibition, is Black Arts and Black Aesthetics, a bibliography that Atlanta University Black Literature professor Carolyn Fowler wrote and began circulating in 1976 featuring 800 entries on African American art. The bibliography, which was primarily distributed through mimeographed copies, became widely popular among Black Arts Movement artists throughout the period.
Myrie, the Black Lunch Table Wikimedia director, told ARTnews that Owens’ scholarship, personal mission, and professional profile made her an easy choice for the fellowship.
The fellowship, Redgrift said, has provided Pace, Black Lunch Table, and Owens the opportunity to collaborate over the course of the project, as well as to integrate the gallery’s Culture & Equity and Research & Archives teams.
The exhibition will be presented in the library of Pace’s Chelsea gallery in New York this February.