Doing the Work: Interpreting Artworks, 27 April 2021

18 May 2021

Part of ‘Doing the Work’, an online CPD workshop series for curators co-produced by the Contemporary Art Society and the Decolonising Arts Institute (University of the Arts London). Read more.

This workshop focuses on interpretation practices in art museums and galleries, and how anti-racist and decolonial approaches can be embedded in them. Questions for discussion included: How can we produce interpretation materials that meet the desires of both established and historically excluded audiences? How can suppressed narratives and the voices and experiences of historically marginalised people be privileged when we produce object labelstalks and other interpretive material? How can we be transparent about histories of colonial violence and racial oppression when interpreting artworks, whilst also encouraging art-appreciation and enjoyment? 

The workshop began with presentations from Miles Greenwood (Curator of Legacies of Slavery and Empire at the Glasgow Museums) and Khairani Barokka (artist and writer), moderated by Hammad Nasar (scholar and curator).  Click here for participant biographies.

Video Timings:
02’44 – Introduction from Hammad Nasar
06’40 – Presentation by Khairani Barokka
23’04 – Presentation by Miles Greenwood
44’00 – Discussion

The workshop groups are not included in this recording to maintain the confidentiality of the discussions, however a written report from the day will be available shortly.


Further Reading:

Online talks

The presentations at the Understanding British Portraits conference From Decolonial to Anti Colonial: What’s Next for Museum Interpretation?held on 6 November 2020.


Anjalie Dalal-Clayton on the problematic interpretation in the exhibition Afro Modern, Now & Then, Here & There: Black Artists & Modernism, London conference, 2016. 

Dr David Dibosa discussing the Black Artists & Modernism project and the need for a shift in emphasis in the interpretation of work by Black artists away from subjectivity 

Artist Dr Khairani Barokka’s performance at the ICA in which she provides her own interpretation (situated at the intersection of decolonialisation and disability justice) of ‘Annah la Javanaise’ in Paul Gauguin’s ‘Aita Tamari Vahine Judith Te Parari’, 1893-1894 



Procter, Alice. The Whole Picture, The colonial story of the art in our museums & why we need to talk about itLondon: Cassell, 2020.




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