<strong> María Magdalena Campos-Pons</strong> image

María Magdalena Campos-Pons is a Cuban-born artist who addresses the unique and resilient nature of her heritage through photography, performance, painting, sculpture, film, and video. Last year, she joined the faculty at Vanderbilt University as the Cornelius Vanderbilt Professor of Studio Art. She has had solo exhibitions at the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Indianapolis Museum of Art, the Peabody Essex Museum, and the National Gallery of Canada, among other distinguished institutions. In addition to her visual work, Campos-Pons has presented over thirty solo performances commissioned by institutions including the Guggenheim and The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. Her art is a powerful investigation of history, trauma, memory, and the formation of identity.

Featured Links and Talks

Bernice Steinbaum Gallery: María Magdalena Campos-Pons
Gallery Wendi Norris: María Magdalena Campos-Pons
IDENTIFY: Performance Art as Portraiture
History of People Who Were Not Heroes
Art and Diaspora
Maria Magdalena Campos-Pons' new show explores Cuba's sugar trade and her own exile.

María Magdalena Campos-Pons on...

The quesiton of museums and elitism

I think that museums are elitist, but also that museums are a space of privilege––which is almost talking about the same thing. But also, I think that rather than focusing the question on whether they are elitist, the target and the question for today is how to challenge that; how to change that. I am a thinker. I like to approach with the idea that there are many things that we have done that are not necessarily right––but they exist––and the question is how to upgrade it to righteousness, how to change that dynamic.

Museums as storytellers

Art has always aspired to enter museums, and I think that museums are a place of reflection. A place that people could come and question their own understanding and their own position with how culture is narrated, because museums are storytellers––in some way or another. It could be a story that is being told distorted or right. And from that point, I could agree with Peter about his dislike about what I always say to my students: At the end, the museum is the cemetery of art.

Art as a way to communicate with each other

We are in need of a way to communicate to each other that is gentle––that is nicer. Our culture is incredibly harsh. Even social media and all of this digital world is incredibly harsh, in ways. The only thing that I believe in––I believe in few things––but I believe that artists sometimes find ways to touch other people in delicate ways, or in very tough ways that moves something within people. That is the only reason that I believe that people don't know that they need art, but they need it.


Secretary David J. Skorton, M.D. image

Dr. David J. Skorton is the 13th Secretary of the Smithsonian. Skorton, a board-certified cardiologist, previously was the president of Cornell University, a position he held from July 2006. He was also a professor in the Departments of Medicine and Pediatrics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City and in Cornell’s Department of Biomedical Engineering at the College of Engineering. An ardent and nationally recognized supporter of the arts and humanities, Skorton has called for a national dialogue to emphasize the importance of funding for these disciplines.

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Rebecca Rabinow image
Rebecca Rabinow

Director of the Menil Collection

Peter Schjeldahl image
Peter Schjeldahl

Senior art critic at The New Yorker

María Magdalena Campos-Pons image
María Magdalena Campos-Pons

Cuban-born artist

David Marcus image
David Marcus

Theater artist and a senior contributor to The Federalist