My recent visit to view the expansive art collections at Brooklyn Museum, located in the Prospect Park area of New York City, provided an interesting opportunity to peruse and critique a series of complex and engaging artistic and curatorial juxtapositions. On every level of this five storey building the vast collections of exhibits and their interpretation narratives were assembled to encourage dialogues between historical artefacts and contemporary artworks, established and experimental museographic techniques, and also conventional versus innovative perspectives on curation, all coupled together within close proximity throughout the display spaces.
The African Collections on Level 1
Nowhere were these artistic and curatorial binaries more starkly evidenced than in the furthest corner of the Level 1 galleries where two, black walled rooms presented the Museum’s permanent holdings of African art objects as the temporary installation “Double Take: African Innovations.”
Whilst it was wonderful browsing these two, tightly filled galleries, packed almost to bursting point with a diverse array of artworks sourced from several African nations, the thematic nature of curator Kevin Dumouchelle’s presentation – contrasting historical sculptural pieces with a range of more recent, multi-media contemporary art exhibits – was actually rendered quite problematic by the Museum’s decision to retain the old-fashioned convention of showcasing African collections within dimly lit, darkly painted interior settings, designed to communicate (wittingly, or unwittingly) the tired 19th century tropes about Africa being perceived in the West as a culturally mysterious ‘Dark Continent’ (see, for example, Hutcheon 1995: 11-13 and Elliott 2007: 32). Continue reading Curatorial traditions and experimental innovations at the Brooklyn Museum, New York
Please see below a link to the first issue of the new peer-reviewed academic journal Stedelijk Studies, which publishes research related to the Stedelijk Museum collection in Amsterdam, its institutional history, wider museum and gallery studies, and other topical issues in the field of visual arts and design.
The inaugural issue – titled, “Collecting Geographies: Global Programming and Museums of Modern Art” – features the following articles and commentaries:
Collecting Geographies: Editorial – by Jelle Bouwhuis and Christel Vesters
Recalcitrant Geographies: National Claims, Transnationalism, and the Institutionalization of Contemporary Art – by Kitty Zijlmans
Peace, the Museum, and Globalization, 1800/2014 – by Todd Porterfield
Creating Ancestors and Affinities: A Rhetorical Analysis of African Art in the Story of Modern Art – by Nanna Leigh
Revisiting Magiciens de la terre – by Annie Cohen-Solal
Between the Global, National, and Peripheral: The Case of Art Museums in Poland – by Karolina Golinowska
Curatorial Expeditions: The Ramallah Safari – by Tina Sherwell
Museum Practices and Migrating Modernity: A Perspective from the South – by Celeste Ianniciello and Michaela Quadraro
Statues also die, even…Time and Agency of Museum Display – by María Íñigo Clavo
After reading Sean O’Hagan’s thought-provoking preview of the ‘Return of the Rudeboy’exhibition at Somerset House in London – titled, ‘Rude Boys: Shanty Town to SavileRow’ (The Guardian/Observer, 24th May 2014) – I placed this event quite high on my list of top 10 “must see” summer showcases, and managed to get along to view it several months later at the start of its closing week on 18th August.
O’Hagan’s article led me to assume the exhibition would be a largely superficial photographic and soundtrack-based audio-visual presentation about the cultural aesthetics of ‘Rudeboy’ (or ‘Rudie’) fashion. It gave the impression that Return of the Rudeboy would be rich in contemporary illustrative content about people whose fashion today echoes the types of clothing trends and styling associated with the ska music genre in Britain from the late 1970s through to the 1990s. But at the same time (reading through the lines) it also implied that the exhibition would be quite limited in its documented historical and socio-cultural contextualisation about the Caribbean origins, hybridisation and changing identity politics of ska, ‘Rudie’ and ‘2-Tone’ subcultures spanning those decades.
In reality, however, the exhibition proved to be much more complex, layered and rounded than had been described in the Guardian/Observer piece – for several reasons:
Earlier this year an article by Tom Devriendt was posted to the online discussion forum ‘Africa is a Country’to commemorate the life and work of French filmmaker Alain Resnais (1922-2014), who passed away on 1st March (Devriendt, 2014). The central focus of this piece was to celebrate the achievements of Resnais and his co-director Chris Marker (1921-2012) in creating a ground-breaking film from the early 1950s about African art and French racism, Statues Also Die [Les statues meurent aussi] (Resnais and Marker, 1953) – commissioned and produced by the Parisian-based publishing house Présence Africaine. What is interesting about the film is the way it features a complex mixture of commentary on French museum practices from the 1950s, the history of French colonialism in Africa, and the public’s changing attitudes in the mid-20th century towards African art – referred to throughout the documentary as ‘black art’.
We met at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham, where his installation piece African Icons (1987) was on display as part of a retrospective of works by UK contemporary artists – titled, As Exciting as We Can Make it:Ikon in the 1980s (2 July — 31 August 2014).
The focus of our conversation was an exploration and critical appraisal of the extent to which black British artists have experienced marginalisation and exclusion as regards their place within the nation’s contemporary visual arts canon, using Eddie Chambers’ own experiences of creating and exhibiting work since the early 1980s as a point of departure.