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Since the opening of artist Kelley Walker’s exhibition “Direct Drive” at the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis in September, the institution has come under fire for including the artist’s appropriated images of the 1960s civil rights movement, police brutality against African Americans, and covers of KING magazine, which feature women of color.

An artist talk hosted by the museum on September 17 exacerbated the situation when Walker and chief curator Jeffrey Uslip failed to satisfactorily answer the audience’s questions regarding why the artist chose these images. The talk sparked protests at the museum, while activists called for a boycott of the exhibition and critics demanded that the works be taken down. The exhibition has even caused divisions between the institution’s staff: Three black employees wrote an open letter to the museum asking for an apology and for Uslip to step down. There have also been threats of violence against museum employees.

In an unprecedented move, CAM decided to wall off the show, keeping the works on display, but shielding them from immediate view.


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