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August 06, 2015

Smithsonian Museum Official Defends Cosby Exhibit Amid Sexual Allegations

In a posting on the website The Root, the director of the Smithsonian's National Museum of African Art in Washington has defended the showing of a controversial exhibit of Bill and Camille Cosby's art collection, The Washington Post's art and architecture critic writes.

Johnetta Cole, a longtime friend of the Cosbys, finally broke her silence on  the controversy surrounding the exhibit, which opened amid mounting allegations of Mr. Cosby's serial sexual assaults on women.

"This exhibition is not about the life and career of Bill Cosby," Ms. Cole said in her post. "It is about the interplay of artistic creativity in remarkable works of African and African-American art and what visitors can learn from the stories this art tells.” She also said she was unaware of the allegations when she accepted the $716,000 gift to fund the show.

The Post's critic, Philip Kennicott, points out that Ms. Cole's statement doesn't acknowledge whether she believes the assault allegations are true. He challenges her assertion that closing the exhibit would "silence" the artists, noting that most of them have their works well represented in other museums, and says giving "promotional exposure" to the private Cosby collection violates best museum practices.