A lot of time is spent imagining the future of museums and how they can be better midwives of ideas, not just arbiters and repositories. However, we must also urgently rectify problems of the past and present: the colonial history behind major collections; a dearth of work from artists of color and women; fraught representations of cultures that become merely exoticized. At this point, we are in triage, so every attempt to step away from more traditional subjects and methods includes a risk. When a show addresses so many past and future concerns at once, it can get messy, as was the case with “Disguise: Masks and Global African Art,” curated by Pamela McClusky and Erika Dalya Massaquoi at Seattle Art Museum.

The saturation of new media in “Disguise” was tailormade for...

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