We aim to support our Museum Members not just through acquisitions, but also through providing resources and professional development for arts professionals through our CPD programme. This database gathers together useful resources that address the decolonisation of public collections in the UK and around the world. Many of these were initially put together by Dr Anjalie Dalal-Clayton, Research Fellow at the Decolonising Art Institute, UAL, for a CAS Study Day on decolonising our collections at Manchester Art Gallery in November 2018 and we wish to thank her for making them available again here.
We are aiming to make it as comprehensive as possible so if you have further suggestions of organisations and papers that address the issue of decolonising our collections please email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’d be delighted to hear from you.
- Black Artists and Modernism Project. An audit of artworks by black artists in public collections, led by Dr Anjalie Dalal-Clayton. This audit seeks to determine in which publicly-funded collections one can find artworks by artists of African, Caribbean, Asian and MENA Region descent who were born in, lived, worked or studied in the UK.
- Imperfect Pasts | Contested Futures: Working with public collections in the 21st Century. Based on a CAS Study Day held at Manchester Art Gallery, this report addresses the question of decolonisation in relation to art collections and museums, taking into account notions of history, colonialism, identity and community. It also investigates the role played by museums – through their acquisitions, exhibitions, partnerships and alliances – in grappling with this increasingly urgent task.
- CAS Annual Conference: Re-Writing the Canon? Two presentations in particular are worth watching. The keynote speech is by Christopher Bedford, Director at Baltimore Museum of Art. Bedford addresses the importance of securing sustainable change within his institution, not only through new trustees, but introducing a collecting strategy that focuses specifically on Black art – not least to reflect the demographics of Baltimore as a Black majority city. Bedford has taken the radical step of de-accessioning works by giants of 20th century art including Warhol and Rauschenberg in order to acquire work by contemporary Black artists such as Isaac Julien and Amy Sherald. The second presentation of note is from Denise Murrell, Co-Curator of Black models: from Géricault to Matisseat the Musee d’Orsay, Paris. Murrell has been naming previously unknown Black models in 19th art who had previously been identified only (and problematically) by their racial characteristics.
- On Curating: Decolonising Art Institutions. This paper compiles the outcome of a symposium on Decolonising Art Institutions at the Kunstmuseum Basel and a summer academy at the Zurich University of the Arts.
- Legacies of British Slave-ownership. The Centre for the Study of the Legacies of British Slave-ownership has been established at UCL with the generous support of the Hutchins Center at Harvard. The Centre will build on two earlier projects based at UCL tracing the impact of slave-ownership on the formation of modern Britain.
- Words Matter: An Unfinished Guide to Word Choices in the Cultural Sector.That words and norms around language are constantly in transition can cause confusion and discomfort to those accustomed to these words; this is also true within museums. But society changes, and language changes with it. Our objects may be timeless, but the ways we speak about them are not. But precisely which words are these? And, more importantly, why are particular words understood as derogatory or offensive, and by whom? These questions, as we have experienced in our museum practice, often don’t have easy answers. In order to provide more guidance on word use, this is a list of words, an explanation of why a particular word is considered sensitive or contested, and alternative terms that may be used in museum practice.
- L’Internationale Online: Decolonising Practices. A collection of commissioned texts, visual essays and conversations on questions of power, resistance and the critical potential of art.
- The Racial and Identity Politics of Head of a Man. An educational resource by Tate considering the intentions, politics and legacy of this landmark artwork by John Simpson
Exhibitions and Talks:
- Talk with John Akomfrah, 10 September 2020. In this discussion with CAS Director Caroline Douglas, Akomfrah talks about “breaking open” art history to include new alternative narratives, his responsibilities towards a younger generation of BLM activists and the importance of museum ethics, particularly in dealing with “contaminated” objects in public collections head on.
- Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963–1983. This internationally acclaimed exhibition, organized by Tate Modern, celebrates art made by Black artists during two pivotal decades when issues of race and identity dominated and defined both public and private discourse. The exhibition catalogue can be purchased HERE.
- GET UP, STAND UP NOW: Generations of Black Creative Pioneers. Held at Somerset House in 2019, this exhibition celebrates the past 50 years of Black creativity in Britain and beyond. The exhibition catalogue can be purchased HERE.
- Black models: from Géricault to Matisse. Curated by Denise Murrell and held at Musee d’Orsay, Paris, this exhibition explores aesthetic, political, social and racial issues as well as the imagery unveiled by the representation of black figures in visual arts, from the abolition of slavery in France (1794) to the modern day. The supporting study for this can be purchased HERE.
- Speech Acts: Reflection-Imagination-Repetition. This exhibition at Manchester Art Gallery brings attention to how the selected ‘highlights’ of a collection tell a deeper story of erasure.
- The Place Is Here: The Work of Black Artists in 1980s Britain. Held at Nottingham Contemporary and touring to South London Gallery and Middlesbrough Institute of Modern Art, this exhibition brought together works by more than 30 artists and collectives that ask questions about identity, representation and what culture is for. Educational resources for this exhibition can be found HERE.
- Autograph ABP. Founded in 1988 as the Association of Black Photographers, Autograph’s mission is to enable the public to explore identity, representation, human rights and social justice through work produced by artists who use photography and film.
- Black Audio Film Collective. Inaugurated in 1982 and dissolved in 1998, the seven-person Black Audio Film Collective (BAFC) is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential artist groups to emerge from Britain in recent years. John Akomfrah, Lina Gopaul, Avril Johnson, Reece Auguiste, Trevor Mathison, David Lawson and Edward George produced award winning film, photography, slide tape, video, installation, posters and interventions, much of which has never been exhibited in Britain.
- Iniva and the Stuart Hall Library. Iniva works predominantly with British-born and British-based visual artists of African and Asian descent supporting them at different stages in their careers. The Stuart Hall Library acts as a critical and creative hub for their work, collaborating with artists, curators, researchers and cultural producers to challenge conventional notions of diversity and difference.
- Wolverhampton Art Gallery. Wolverhampton Art Gallery is building a major collection works by Black British contemporary artists, particularly those associated with the Black Arts Movement of the 1980s. The Gallery played a significant role in the emergence of this movement, hosting the first major exhibition by young Black artists, Black Art an’ Done, in 1981. The first National Black Art Convention took place at the Polytechnic a year later. These two events spawned a new wave of Black art that reflected the social and political issues experienced by a generation of Black British people whose parents came to Britain in the 50s and 60s. New acquisitions include work by some of the key artists of this movement, such as Keith Piper, Donald Rodney, Claudette Johnson, Sonya Boyce, Lubaina Himid, Tam Joseph and Chila Burman.