Press RoomPhoenix Art Museum presents new exhibition curated by frontline staff

Phoenix Art Museum presents new exhibition curated by frontline staff

Nov, 28, 2023

Special Installations

Phoenix Art Museum presents new exhibition curated by frontline staff

Guarding the Art: A Frontline Perspective highlights works from the PhxArt Collection chosen by members from Museum’s security, event-rentals, and retail-services teams; exhibition challenges traditional museum hierarchies

PHOENIX (November 28, 2023) – This winter, Phoenix Art Museum (PhxArt) presents Guarding the Art: A Frontline Perspective, the first exhibition of its kind at PhxArt to feature works from the Phoenix Art Museum Collection selected by guest curators from the institution’s security, retail-sales, and event-rentals teams. The exhibition is the first national iteration of Guarding the Art, an exhibition model developed by the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) in 2022, with generous support from the Pearlstone Family Fund. PhxArt’s presentation of Guarding the Art—made possible through the generosity of PNC Bankdraws from the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 objects and features works by renowned artists such as Keith Haring, Hector Ruiz, and Lew Davis, among others. It is accompanied by original interpretative materials written by the 13 guest curators, in addition to an illustrated publication. Guarding the Art: A Frontline Perspective will be on view from January 19 through November 24, 2024 in the Rineberg and Ballinger galleries at Phoenix Art Museum.

“Phoenix Art Museum is proud to presentGuarding the Art: A Frontline Perspective to Arizona audiences,” said Jeremy Mikolajczak, the Sybil Harrington Director and CEO of Phoenix Art Museum. “Building upon the incredible exhibition realized by Baltimore Museum of Art, Guarding the Art is the first at PhxArt to invite guest curators from our frontline staff and underscores the importance of creating opportunities to center diverse voices selecting the art featured in our galleries and exhibitions.”

In December 2022, PhxArt and the BMA announced a partnership to develop and implement the first national iteration of the acclaimed Guarding the Art exhibition in Phoenix. The original exhibition was conceived by longtime BMA Trustee Amy Elias, with the goal of highlighting the unique perspectives and reflections of security staff who spend thousands of hours in the galleries interacting with visitors and engaging with artworks on the walls. In February 2023, PhxArt invited members of its security, guest-services, facilities, event-rentals, and retail-services teams to apply for the role of Guarding the Art guest curators through an internal application process. Over the past year, the team of 13 frontline staff members worked closely with mentoring curator Susana Torruella Leval, Director Emerita and former chief curator of El Museo del Barrio in New York, and PhxArt organizing curator Christian Ramírez, the Cohn Assistant Curator of Contemporary and Community Art Initiatives. They also collaborated with staff members across the Museum’s registration, marketing and communications, arts education and engagement, and exhibition-design teams.

The culminating exhibition—titled Guarding the Art: A Frontline Perspective—will premiere to the public on January 19 and features more than 20 works from across various collecting areas, including modern, contemporary, and American art. Featured works include Little Boy Lives in a Copper Camp (1939) by Lew Davis, Untitled (1979) by Richard Anuszkiewicz, and Woman with Jar (1975) by Paul Pletka, among others.

“Though the exhibition is quite diverse in overall content, the underlying current is one of unity, inclusion, diversity, and acceptance,” said Guarding the Art guest curators in a joint statement.

Each artwork is accompanied by an extended label written by a guest curator. Guest curators were also responsible for producing an accompanying bilingual exhibition catalogue that includes all of the exhibition’s artworks and related text. The catalogue will be on sale beginning January 19 and features a roundtable discussion that provides insight into the group’s curatorial process.  

“Shortly after the opening of Guarding the Art in Baltimore, I realized the unique opportunity that it afforded not just our museum, but also museums and communities throughout the country for those who have always been seen in museums, but not necessarily valued for their perspectives on the art within,” said BMA Trustee Amy Elias. “It is deeply gratifying to see that the leadership at Phoenix Art Museum embraced the concept, and I am confident it will be as successful in Phoenix as it was in Baltimore.”

“PNC has a legacy of investing in the arts, and we understand the economic, social and civic impacts of a thriving arts and culture community,” said Cathleen Walker, PNC regional president of Phoenix and Northern Arizona. “With Guarding the Art, Phoenix Art Museum continues to engage our community through dynamic and innovative exhibitions. PNC is proud to help bring this opportunity to Phoenix.”

High-resolution photography can be downloaded here. To request interviews, contact the Communications Office of Phoenix Art Museum at 602.257.2117 or

About the Exhibition
Guarding the Art: A Frontline Perspective was founded by the Baltimore Museum of Art with generous support from the Pearlstone Family Fund. Its presentation at Phoenix Art Museum is made possible through the generosity of Presenting Sponsor PNC Bank. All exhibitions at Phoenix Art Museum are underwritten by the Phoenix Art Museum Exhibition Excellence Fund, founded by The Opatrny Family Foundation with additional major support provided by Joan Cremin.

Admission is free for Museum Members; youth aged 5 and younger; and Maricopa County Community Colleges students. Entrance into the exhibition is included in general admission for the public. Visitors may also enjoy reduced admission to the exhibition during voluntary-donation times on Wednesdays from 3 – 9 pm, made possible by SRP and City of Phoenix. For a full breakdown of general admission prices and hours, see

About Phoenix Art Museum
Since 1959, Phoenix Art Museum has provided millions of guests with access to world-class art and experiences in an effort to ignite imaginations, create meaningful connections, and serve as a brave space for all people who wish to experience the transformative power of art. Located in Phoenix’s Central Corridor, the Museum is a vibrant destination for the visual arts and the largest art museum in the southwestern United States. Each year, more than 300,000 guests engage with critically acclaimed national and international exhibitions and the Museum’s collection of more than 20,000 works of American and Western American, Asian, European, Latin American, modern and contemporary art, and fashion design. The Museum also presents a comprehensive film program, live performances, and educational programs designed for visitors of all ages, along with vibrant photography exhibitions made possible through the Museum’s landmark partnership with the Center for Creative Photography, University of Arizona. To learn more about Phoenix Art Museum, visit, or call 602.257.1880.

About Baltimore Museum of Art
Founded in 1914, the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) inspires people of all ages and backgrounds through exhibitions, programs, and collections that tell an expansive story of art – challenging long-held narratives and embracing new voices. Our outstanding collection of more than 95,000 objects spans many eras and cultures and include the world’s largest works public holding of works by Henri Matisse; one of the nation’s finest collections of prints, drawings, and photographs; and a rapidly growing number of contemporary artists of diverse backgrounds. The museum is also distinguished by a neoclassical building designed by American architect John Russell Pope and two beautifully landscaped gardens featuring an array of modern and contemporary sculpture. The BMA is located three miles north of the Inner Harbor, adjacent to the main campus of Johns Hopkins University, and has a community branch at Lexington Market. Generation admission is free so that everyone can enjoy the power of art.

About PNC Bank
PNC Bank, National Association, is a member of The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc. (NYSE: PNC). PNC is one of the largest diversified financial services institutions in the United States, organized around its customers and communities for strong relationships and local delivery of retail and business banking including a full range of lending products; specialized services for corporations and government entities, including corporate banking, real estate finance and asset-based lending; wealth management and asset management. For information about PNC, visit

About Pearlstone Family Fund
The Pearlstone Family Fun was established in the 1980s by Jack Pearlstone and his son Richard to support the organizations and agencies that strengthen Jewish life in communities throughout the world. The Fund also support arts, culture, and community-based activities in the Baltimore metropolitan region.

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