The museum has built a reputation for celebrating the black artist and working class community for the past decade, but has now suspended this work. The Los Angeles Underground Museum has announced this week that it will close until further notice.
Approximately 10 years after the beloved cultural organization began, it developed into one of the country’s leading venues for black art, leaving two directors and closing the door to the location of Arlington Heights. The decision was announced on Tuesday by sculptor Karon Davis, one of the founders of the museum. He posted her message on Instagram. “We just don’t have an answer right now,” she wrote in a letter. It was subsequently posted on the museum’s website.
It was not clear from Davis’ message when the underground museum would reopen and how the sudden closure would affect staff and trustees. Davis refused to comment through her dealer, the Wilding Clan Gallery in Los Angeles.
The museum has recently returned from a two-year pandemic pause. This is an uncertain time when the organization hired Meg Onri from Philadelphia’s Institute of Contemporary Art as a curator and one of two directors, along with executive Cristina Pacheco.
“The way Noah made the show was consistent with mine, it was a big, bold and unconstrained show,” Onri said in an interview with the New York Times last year. “What Noah was doing was actually using black lenses in all kinds of different art, not just black art.”
Onli and Pacheco did not immediately respond to the request for comment.
In 2012, Davis started the museum with his husband, the painter Noah Davis. He died of rare cancer in 2015 at the age of 32, and the Underground Museum became his legacy vehicle. The curator has hosted exhibitions of big names such as Lorna Simpson, William Kentridge, and Deana Lawson, in addition to a list of 18 curator proposals that Noah Davis drafted before her death.
Even though the museum’s reputation exceeded its size and reasonable budget, staff continued to focus on serving the working-class neighborhood with community events, poetry readings, yoga classes, and movie screenings. It is believed that the popularity of museums has contributed to the surge in sales of local tourism and restaurants among nearby businesses.
However, it is possible that more care was taken than the parents of the underground museum could handle.
“As soon as Noah passed by, each of us jumped into the job of running a museum to realize his vision,” Davis said in her message. “As a result, we couldn’t personally completely mourn his loss or take the time needed to heal.”
Davis said in an Instagram post that it’s difficult to get others to fly the museum, especially after her husband’s paintings return to the basement this year. She said, “It’s clear how hard it was for our family to let go enough to get Meg and Christina to work. They were extraordinary and we went to the work they did with us. I appreciate it very much.”