What happened: We recently used an image of the piece titled Goin’ Fishin’ by Arthur Dove to advertise an upcoming assemblage workshop. We searched for an assemblage in our collection to match the theme of the workshop and mistakenly used this piece without adequate knowledge and therefore without sensitivity to its history. We sincerely apologize for the harm we have caused with this post.
Context: This piece was not always called Goin’ Fishin’. When Duncan Phillips acquired it in 1937, the title was N****r Goes A-Fishin.’ Our records indicate that the artist changed the title to Goin’ Fishin’ before his death in 1946.
The background and context of this piece have been explored in scholarly publications, including the museum’s 1999 publication about the collection, as well as in public programs at The Phillips Collection. However, we have failed to provide the critical context and history about this work to our entire staff and on our most accessible platforms, namely our website and in our galleries.
What we’re doing: We have a responsibility to use works like this in a way that sparks dialogue, creates an environment of accountability, and inspires critical thinking. This is an important reminder to us that we need to do better. We are at the very beginning of our DEAI journey, which includes, but is not limited to, anti-racism training and excavating the buried supremacist histories within objects of our collection. We are committed to reckoning with our past and preventing future harm.
Would appreciate further elucidation of what problem is being apologized for here. I would like to learn how simply selecting a work whose title was changed by the artist 75 years ago to remove an offensive word would have created offense.