The museum will finally have its first purpose-built space on the site of its current cramped home in a former bank building. Despite persistent doubts about the financial capacities of predominantly black boards, the Studio Museum has succeeded in raising 70 percent of the money for its building project, cementing the institution’s stature as a model of how to develop racially diverse trustees, staff members and audiences. Ms. Golden’s name, meanwhile, keeps coming up for top posts, like those at the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
At the same time, Ms. Golden must defend the Studio Museum’s importance in an age when the work of African-American artists is increasingly making its way into mainstream institutions. She must find new ways to attract visitors when even major institutions on Manhattan’s Museum Mile are struggling to compete with digital media for patrons’ leisure time. And she needs to raise the rest of the money for a new building when many institutions are also trying to secure donations.
“She’s now considered a superstar in the art world,” said Michael Govan, the director of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, who last year brought Ms. Golden onto his board. “Some people have said, ‘Mission accomplished; why do you need a big building?’” he added. “Well, why does MoMA need a new building, why does the Whitney need a new building? Somehow the Studio Museum is supposed to stay in an unkempt, un-air-conditioned building. Why shouldn’t they have the same institutional ambition?”
The Studio Museum’s dual identities — as local community hub and an international champion of…