Accepted paper:

Demanding Recognition - Curatorial Challenges in the Exhibition of Art from South Africa

Authors:

Vibe Nielsen (University of Copenhagen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores strategies of disruption and decolonisation within the art of curating. I argue that the ambivalent situation curators of art from South Africa find themselves in is a result of a situation where the often white curators are expected to represent something authentic African.

Paper long abstract:

By studying public demands for recognition, seen in curatorial debates and practices in museums and art galleries exhibiting art from South Africa, this paper explores strategies of disruption and decolonisation within the art of curating. The paper examines how curators are classifying and exhibiting art from South Africa and shows that the public demands for recognition and the ways they are met, are results of a continuous domination of Eurocentric classification and exhibitionary practices. The curatorial debates in South Africa often evolves around the issue of race as white South Africans still make up the majority of curators in many museums and art galleries. The curators themselves thus often become symbols of the Eurocentrism of the institutions they represent, but are simultaneously expected to actively contribute to the transformation of their institutions. The ways in which the curators choose to navigate through the often demanding demands of recognition they are met with, is the empirical foundation of this paper: I argue that the ambivalent situation the curators find themselves in is a result of a situation where white curators are expected to - but at the same time not found suitable to - represent and exhibit something authentic African. The mimicking situation is thus turned upside down: While curators in South Africa before the end of Apartheid could mimic European or Western curatorial practices without much disruption, they are now, through increasing demands for recognition, expected to transform, mimic and incorporate what is considered authentic African.

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