Author:Vibe Nielsen (University of Copenhagen)
Paper short abstract:
Through examples from recent exhibitions dealing with South African art held in the UK and South Africa this paper discusses the dilemmas involved in exhibiting the non-European through art.
Paper long abstract:
The inclusive way of perceiving art, which has dominated the museum world in the last few decades, seems more applicable when museums are exhibiting non-European objects. The relationship between contemporary art and ethnography thus emphasise a dilemma for the post-colonial museum: By including contemporary art in displays of non-European objects, but not in displays of European or Western objects, museums run the risk of continuing a long tradition of exoticisation and Euro-centrism. In light of this, I will discuss how categorisation practices in the museum world still tend to distinguish between art, ethnography and social historical objects, when the objects come from Europe or North America, but to a lesser extent when the objects come from elsewhere. I will base my discussion on recent fieldwork conducted in the South Africa - Art of a Nation (2016-2017) exhibition at the British Museum and the private Standard Bank Gallery in Johannesburg, where contemporary art and so-called ethnographic objects (musical instruments, hunting tools, etc.) were exhibited alongside each other in the Air; Inspiration - Expiration (2016) exhibition, while objects of European ethnographic descent have been left out.
The Future of Anthropological Representation: Contemporary Art and/in the Ethnographic Museum