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by Marie-Laure Allain Bonilla

Some Theoretical and Empirical Aspects on the Decolonization of Western Collections

In academia, decolonial thinking and methodologies have been developed by scholars such as Anibal Quíjano, María Lugones, Walter Mignolo, Chandra Talpade Mohanty, Ramón Grosfoguel, or Linda Tuhiwai Smith[i] who are attempting to stray from the Western canon of thinking and to produce a radical alternative knowledge that takes “seriously the epistemic perspective […] of critical thinkers from the Global South thinking from and with subalternized racial/ethnic/sexual spaces and bodies.”[ii] Rather than an anti-European critique, it is about adopting “a perspective that is both critical of Eurocentric and Third World fundamentalisms, colonialism and nationalism.”[iii]

In the context of museums, to decolonize would mean, “resisting the reproduction of colonial taxonomies” and “vindicating radical multiplicity.”[iv] It would start out by recasting modernism, insofar as this paradigm is bound up with European imperialism and coterminous with Eurocentrism. Indeed, according to the decolonial thinking, museums will not be able to decolonize their practices if they stick to the old taxonomies and values of art history as it was built during the past centuries. If we follow Dipesh Chakrabarty’s prescription for the discipline of history, Europe should be provincialized and a transcultural approach of art history is much needed.[v] It would mean “going beyond an ‘inclusive’ move to question the foundations upon which the notion of modern has been constructed.”[vi]

This epistemic turn can be seen in museums in the programming of solo shows from non-Western artists or of historical survey exhibitions that try to recast modernism by adopting a transcultural approach: such as Seven Stories About Modern Art in Africa (1995), Afro Modern: Journeys Through the Black Atlantic (2010), Non-Aligned Modernity: Eastern-European Art and Archives (2016), or Postwar: Art Between the Pacific and the Atlantic 1945-1965 (2017), just to name a few examples. But these are temporary events. Ideally, a reconfiguration of art history narratives should go deeper and find a way to have a more long-lasting effect on the institution than the one produced by a temporary event, as groundbreaking as it can be.[vii] Hence, a reworking of museums’ collections and their displays seems the right move. If the beginning of all decolonization is theoretically a tabula rasa, as Frantz Fanon pointed out,[viii] it is hardly an option in the case of a pre-existing collection. Things have to be negotiated and reworked from within, and with a pre-existing framework. For example, as it has been done at the Weltkulturen Museum in Frankfurt, a negotiation with the collection can be made by inviting scholars and artists to work directly on the objects of the collection in order to create a new understanding and reading.[ix]

But even if this experimental methodology, which took place in an ethnographic museum, “can be applied to other museums with varied historical collections,”[x] it is not a sufficient prescription to decolonize museums of modern and contemporary art, since their collections of art from the 20th and 21st centuries continuously evolve and grow. To decolonize museums collections would also mean adopting a moral and ethical position regarding the way artworks are acquired in order to make “Museums moral again,”[xi] assuming not that they have been “moral” once, but rather that their mission is to provide moral and ethical perspectives on our collective cultural and artistic memories.

To achieve this decolonial goal, museums are confronted to two complementary aspects:

- the theoretical one, which can help to give some guidance as for the way to solve the epistemological and ethical problems;
- and the empirical one.

We will, successively, explore the shortcomings of these two aspects in order to highlight the difficulties museums are facing today regarding the construction and the reworking of their collections in a decolonized perspective.

Theoretical Aspects
Interestingly, it is only recently that Western museums have started to show interest in the decolonial issue. In 2012, the Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia in Madrid launched a research group, Península. Procesos coloniales y prácticas artísticas y curatoriales [Colonial Processes and Artistic and Curatorial Practices], to provide:

an analysis of the role of the Iberian Peninsula in colonial processes, the visibility of representations and narrations from diverse past and present institutional spheres, in addition to the responses of artists, curators and researchers regarding some of the problems that stem from these narrations.[xii]

In Spain still, a seminar explicitly entitled “Decolonising the Museum” was held in November 2014 at the MACBA in Barcelona.[xiii] It addressed colonial legacies still rooted in European museums and mindsets, as well as solutions already offered by curators to overcome these legacies. Very recently, in September 2017, the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven gathered scholars, curators, and directors of art institutions around the topic of the collections “Collections in Transition: Decolonising, Demodernising and Decentralising?”.[xiv] Even if it did not emanate from a museum, we can also mention the symposium, “De-Colonizing Art Institutions,” organized in June 2017 by the Postgraduate Program in Curating of the Zürich University of the Arts but held at the Kunstmuseum in Basel.

Nonetheless, this apparently recent incursion of decolonial thinking into museums was in fact preceded by a sister thought, the postcolonial theories, which have abundantly served curatorial discourses in the West since the 1990s[xv] and are to be found in art institutions under various forms, which refer more or less explicitly to them. They can be found:

- in the adoption of a geopolitical revisionism in acquisition politics;
- in the rewriting of new scenarios for the displays of their collection (by adopting a non-Eurocentric point of view);
- in the search of more horizontality in their relationships/partnerships with institutions and individualities from the Global South;
- or in their statements, with the use of rhetoric borrowed to postcolonial thinkers and writers (to date, Édouard Glissant is the main one[xvi]).

The role and the impact of postcolonial theories on art institutions were nonetheless reassessed at the turn of the century. This can explain the recent switch to decolonial thinking that can appear as a more effective and radical tool than postcolonial theories – the very prefix “de” implies an action, whereas the prefix “post” suggests only a state, a condition.

In 2000, in Australia, a conference entitled “Postcolonial + Art: Where Now?” examined what postcolonial theories still have to provide to Australian visual arts, and how postcolonial revisions of (art) history have affected (or not) mainstream institutions.[xvii] The same year, in Great Britain, artist and thinker Rasheed Araeen, one of the most active support and diffuser of these theories through the journal Third Text, made a radical stand in an article.[xviii] According to him, the use of postcolonial theories would strengthen the dominant assumptions that they are supposed to question at the cost of the artists who would find themselves prisoners of their prescriptions. Homi Bhabha’s theory of hybridity would be “bogus” (fake)[xix] because it would be anhistorical and would help promote “postcolonial exotica.”[xx] But it is less the theory in itself than the “ambivalent and uncritical attitude of these postcolonial intellectuals towards art institutions and their multicultural projects”[xxi] that Araeen challenged. He reproached Edward Said with his lack of commitment to art discourse and with leaving his idea of exile universalized and seized by the institution. And he condemned Stuart Hall for his insistence on thinking of the cultural journey of the artist as an essential content of the artwork, which would then be used to enhance otherness in the ideological context of multicultural politics.

Araeen only saw their presence within art institutions as a way, for the latter, to legitimize their neoliberal program. Unlike the Australians who endeavored to assess the way postcolonial theories are absorbed by mainstream art institutions, Araeen concentrated almost exclusively on the role played by some of their most important producers (Said, Bhabha, Spivak, and Hall). He pursued his gripes in the following years, rebuking them for forging theories (particularly the ones of cultural difference and ethnicity) that, according to him, brought about the British Black arts movement downfall[xxii].

If the tone and the content of Araeen’s criticisms are depreciatory and seem to be rough and unfair, they should however be seen as “symptomatic of a growing unease with the contradictions in contemporary society.”[xxiii] These contradictions reside, for instance, in the gap between the formulation of radical theories and their effective practical applications within institutional politics. To blame theoreticians for a misuse of their theories falls under a fantasy to consider them as “gatekeepers of contemporary culture.”[xxiv] But under this fantasy, in reality, hides a central question: What do we expect from theory and from the theoreticians?

This question is fundamental to acknowledging that we cannot rely entirely on theory to build new methodologies and/or new ways of practices. Theory is a tool that can be used to justify certain choices and orientations but it is not by any means self-sufficient. How to make theories efficient within the framework of museums? How to transpose theories into practice? A group of scholars, artists, and art activists gathered under the banner of the Transnational Decolonial Institute (TDI) tries to “critically [engage] the Western tradition of “art” […] and its postmodern and altermodern updates.”[xxv] The group co-signed a “Decolonial Aesthetics Manifesto” in 2011 and since then has been working toward a “cure to the colonial wound,”[xxvi] which would result from communal work and engagement. However, the activities of the TDI (international conferences mostly) are not much deployed and have trouble entering art institutions and shaking them.

Finding a cure to the colonial wound is a difficult task, as Sarat Maharaj underlined it. He identified a postcolonial pharmakon, at once “poison and remedy,” to cure binarisms, and a postcolonial panacea, which would be a strategy of inversion of power relationships.[xxvii] But pharmakon and panacea are in conflict. Indeed, by overthrowing power relationships, the panacea recreates a binary system that the pharmakon then tries to treat, creating an infinite vicious circle. It was demonstrated at the Third Guangzhou Triennial in 2008, where, by attempting to overthrow postcolonial power relationships, the curators (a team including Sarat Maharaj), were in the end pushed into counterproductive binarisms: Asia vs. the West, postcolonialism vs. “post-postcolonialism.”

Therefore, if theory should be treated cautiously insofar as it can either be distorted or increase a failure: how can an art collection concretely be decolonized? Where to begin? What are the concrete issues that institutions are facing?

Empirical Aspects
To adopt a decolonized approach of the collection, which means, a decentralized and non-Eurocentric point of view, does not come without pitfalls. In the field of acquisition policies, programs are being set up keeping in mind reaching the widest scope of action, geographically speaking, in order to be as inclusive as possible. Departments devoted to non-Western areas, to which a curator from the dedicated region is usually assigned, are created to develop research comprising market investigation.

Interestingly, Tate Modern’s former director Chris Dercon legitimized the fact by having started to buy art in geographic areas where the Western art market hadn’t arrived yet (such as the Middle East and Southeast Asia), as a consequence of the disproportion between the museum budget and the increase of market prices.[xxviii] Dercon was not dishonest with this statement, but he missed addressing the issue of Tate’s position. For a European museum, collecting art from almost all over the world could be interpreted as the maintenance of a colonialist attitude of plundering other cultures to enrich its own.

In the era of globalization, museums are caught in a paradox: on the one hand, the need to make their functions and policies evolve towards a geopolitical revisionism informed by postcolonial and decolonial perspectives; on the other, the risk of imposing a new geo-aesthetic expression of the Western model and perpetuating a colonial cultural domination.[xxix] For instance, in a few decades we will have no protection at all in terms of having issues of restitution occur regarding modern and contemporary artworks if attention is not paid to the way non-Western artworks are currently acquired by Western museums.[xxx] Tate Modern attempts to resolve part of the problem by organizing international curatorial exchanges and partnerships with local organizations in Kabul, Lagos, or Amman.[xxxi]

International exchanges and partnerships with banks are also the solution found by the Guggenheim to implement its Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative (2012-2017), which fosters cross-cultural interactions and exchanges between artists, curators, and audiences via traveling exhibitions, educational programs, online activities, and collection building.[xxxii] This project focuses on three large regions to which art experts from the regions were appointed—June Yap for South and Southeast Asia, Pablo León de la Barra for Latin America, and Sara Raza for the Middle East and North Africa. But despite a will to have a global reach, the project radically eliminates sub-Saharan countries. This omission was legitimized as follows: “The Middle East and North Africa share a lineage that makes their consideration as an area of focus for this project more logical than with the greater continent of Africa, especially in terms of artistic developments.”[xxxiii] This argument, implicitly reinforced by the idea that Arabic culture would have reached a higher level of development than Black African cultures, is the persistence of the assimilation of Africa to a “heart of darkness,”[xxxiv] a recurrent point of debate since the 1990s in many discussions on contemporary African art that try to find a way to avoid this North/South separation of the African continent.

Apart from the cultural and artistic justifications, the eviction of the southern part of the African continent could also be interpreted through the economic prism of prospective partnerships, which in the eyes of UBS seems to be more appealing (promising?) in the Middle East than in Senegal or the Democratic Republic of Congo. This encourages us to consider just how much a partnership with a bank shapes museum policy in terms of collecting, exhibiting, and educating.[xxxv] Furthermore, UBS being the main partner of the Guggenheim project irremediably links this latter to capitalism and dubious financial practices, as the Swiss bank was involved in financial scandals in 2008. It is even disconcerting that the bank name appears so prominently in the title of the project, thus tinging the whole project with this funding aspect. Indeed, as Reesa Greenberg wrote,

The term private money resonates because in many spheres of the art world, particularly after the financial crises of 2008, private money is perceived as negative, even malevolent, in part because financial speculation is seen as the cause of the ever-inflating art market, and in part because the excessive wealth of the 1% has once again transformed the art world into a favored playing field for the super-rich, where artworks function as über-luxury goods.[xxxvi]

If to be involved in this philanthropic project could be one of the ways for UBS to restore its image, it seems, however, under the pretext of promoting art, also to be a niche in which to develop other financial placements and partnerships and to expand its activities more globally. Answering this hypothesis would though require more research.

According to Joaquín Barriendos Rodríguez, the concept of global art, supposedly synonymous with openness, total inclusion, and the free circulation of goods and people, is nonetheless the expression of the coloniality of power.[xxxvii] Therefore, the way museums acquire artworks from all over the world and the financial partnerships in which they are contracting to complete this task must be analyzed. Inasmuch as museums drastically lack public funding, they must turn to the private sector to get their project funded. But at what price? In his article “Making Museums Moral Again,” art critic Holland Cotter pointed out that,

“Some museums [the MET, the Guggenheim] were urged to stop taking money from ethically dubious corporate or personal sources, including board members who deny that climate change is underway. Others were called out for condoning, if not actively supporting, inhumane labor practices, like those imposed on migrant workers building new Guggenheim and Louvre franchises in Abu Dhabi.”[xxxviii]

Knowing the role played by colonialism in the genesis of capitalism, solutions have to be found in order to decolonize funding and to aim for more horizontality in the South/North exchanges.

Collections “are both about our failings and about our successes. They signify relations between things and ideas, between the inheritance of meaning and its erasure over time.”[xxxix] Therefore, beyond finding ethical funding in order not to reproduce the coloniality of power, museums have to define the terms of their collection and for this probably look at their shortcomings, and do some introspective work to understand how to address the lacks. For instance, the Stedelijk Museum and the Centre Pompidou recently each organized an exhibition of their collections addressing the issues of the latter.[xl]

At the Stedelijk Museum, the question was knowing if the museum “reflect[ed] the geopolitical reality of the world.”[xli] After having gone through the number of artworks from Africa, Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East present in the collection, the assessment was that the representation of “art from areas outside Europe (particularly Western Europe) and North America (i.e., the United States) is marginal. […] In itself, this is nothing new.”[xlii] In his essay, Jelle Bouwhis, the curator responsible for the exhibition How Far How Near – The World in the Stedelijk (September 19, 2014 – February 1, 2015), went back through the history of the exhibitions held at the Stedelijk since the 1930s that had displayed non-Western art.[xliii] From objects from Papua New-Guinea and Africa exhibited alongside artworks from European modern artists, to African photography via art from South America, the history of Stedelijk exhibitions unveils the influence of “Soft Power”[xliv] on the museum. In this context, Soft Power has to be understood as the possibility for modern art to “represent an ultimate notion of freedom and cultivate forms of (geographically motivated) exclusion.”[xlv] It can explain why exhibitions of South American artists or South African artists could have been organized at the Stedelijk but without receiving “a follow-up, simply because the presented works were difficult to slot into the paradigm of modern art.”[xlvi]

At the turn of the 21st century, the Stedelijk adopted for a different strategy, establishing long-term programs such as Project 1975: Contemporary Art and the Postcolonial Unconscious or Global Collaborations that were meant to develop partnerships with art institutions in Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia through exhibitions, residencies, exchanges, and collaborations, etc. Furthermore, the Stedelijk started to purchase the artworks produced (or selected) for the exhibitions held during those programs, building a collection piece by piece that more accurately reflected the shift of the museum towards more inclusivity of non-Western artists. How Far How Near exhibited some of these artworks, such as those by Meschac Gaba, Abdoulaye Konaté, and Billie Zangewa, showing a strong interest for artists from the African continent.

At the Centre Pompidou, the story is quite different. Une histoire: art, architecture et design, des années 80 à aujourd’hui was a collection display curated by Christine Macel and held at almost the same moment as the one in Amsterdam (July 2, 2014 – January 11, 2016). It then traveled to the Haus der Kunst in Munich under a slightly different title: A History: Contemporary Art from the Centre Pompidou (March 25 – September 4, 2016). With more than 400 artworks on display, the aim of this exhibition was to show the extent of the collection rather than to reassess its shortcomings and its lacks. Unlike the Stedelijk exhibition that was a critical introspection, the curator’s statement shows that the aim was to inscribe the Centre Pompidou’s approach into the classical discourse on the globalization of the art world (starting with 1989, the biennials phenomenon, etc.) and not to reassess the pitfalls of the collection regarding this history.[xlvii] Even if Macel recognized that “because it has become nearly impossible to keep track of the entire worldwide development of art, a targeted selection was made rather than the goal of totality pursued,”[xlviii] the non-Western areas, particularly the sub-Saharan part of the African continent, are nonetheless underrepresented in the collection.[xlix] It was thus surprising to have chosen a photograph by Samuel Fosso (La Femme américaine libérée des années 70, 1997, acquired in 2004) to illustrate the press release sent by e-flux, as well as the announcement on the Haus der Kunst website. But what Macel asked was: how to address the concept of global art from a collection perspective, and how to resolve the problem of the recontextualization of an artwork? Does any so-called good, self-respecting museum need to own some “basic standards” of a (global) art history in its collection?

Conversely, in China for instance, newly founded museums are compulsively acquiring Impressionist canvases. Less about a desire to include the European avant-garde in the discourse of Chinese art history, it is more the strong use-value of these artworks that is sought after, in order to be appealing for tourism, following the “impartial economic logic [saying that] The ‘success’ of museums is determined by the number of visitors they attract.”[l] Beyond the stakes of the market, what are the epistemological interests in owning these masterpieces? The question can be applied to any museum in the world collecting art from another part of the world, which is seen as marketable or exotically stimulating (pick one). It seems urgent to rethink the role and the mission of art museums before the globalization phenomenon, which follows the modern one, creates homogenized spaces and narratives where we would see almost the same kind of artworks and discourses whether we are in Rio, Houston, Shanghai, London, or Abu Dhabi.

For Western museums of modern and contemporary art, the shift towards a decolonial approach of their acquisition practices was clearly triggered not by the Independences, but much later by the globalization phenomenon which accentuated the imbalances and therefore called for non-Eurocentric policies. The different examples discussed show that the idea of decolonizing Western museums art collections (implying at least two aspects, the theoretical one and the empirical one) is a very complex issue worth further consideration. However, this decolonial challenge cannot be limited to acquisition policies and should be considered in the various sectors and missions of museums, whether those are acquisition policies turned toward non-Western artists and areas, collection displays with new narratives, the programming of temporary exhibitions of artists previously marginalized, or museum policies at large such as the recruitment of non-Western/non-white staff (not just as guards or cleaners) or education programs specifically oriented toward the deconstruction of dominant discourses.

The question of knowing how to succeed or to conceive a decolonization of museums (and their collections) cannot be reduced to only the theoretical quest of a remedy that could be applied to any museum—each museum has its own history and therefore should look for its own recipe—, nor can it only rely on the purchase of artworks supposed to rectify the narratives. The battle will probably not be won until museums become spaces of “knowledge-without-power,”[li] taking full responsibility for their role in the construction of influential narratives that are shaping the history of art, and more broadly the history of our world, in our collective memories.

This article is a shortened and rewritten version of “‘Is it conceivable to decolonize the collections from Western museums of modern and contemporary art?’. Theoretical and practical aspects.” Muséologies 10th anniversary issue, October 2017.

Trained in curatorial studies, Dr. Marie-Laure Allain Bonilla specializes in the history of exhibitions—her PhD dissertation highlights an untold history of the uses of postcolonial theories by curatorial practices in contemporary art since the 1980s. Her primary research concerns museum acquisition policies in the global era and the possibilities to decolonize institutional practices through collaborations, both in the West and in former colonized areas. She has published on subjects such as the biennial phenomenon (particularly the Johannesburg biennale), on museum and curatorial studies, as well as on contemporary art practices challenging Western prerogatives. Apart from working on a book based on her PhD dissertation, she is currently coediting a book of collected papers for an international conference she co-organized in 2015 at the University of Rennes 2 on feminist, queer, and decolonial subjectivities in contemporary art. Allain Bonilla has taught at University of Rennes 2, where she was involved in the Curatorial Studies M.A. program, and in January 2016 she joined the University of Basel for her post-doctoral research. She is a member of the Global Art Prospective program at the Institut National d’Histoire de l’Art (INHA) in Paris.

i See in particular Aníbal Quijano. “Colonialidad y modernidad/racionalidad,” Perú Indigena Vol. 13, No. 29, 1992, pp. 11-21; Chandra Talpade Mohanty. Feminism without Borders: Decolonizing Theory, Practicing Solidarity. Duke University Press, Durham, 2003; María C. Lugones, “Heterosexualism and the Colonial/Modern Gender System,” Hypatia, Vol. 22, No. 1, 2007, pp. 186-219; Walter Mignolo and Madina V. Tlostanova, Learning to Unlearn: Decolonial Reflections from Eurasia and the Americas, Ohio State University Press, Columbus, OH, 2012; Linda Tuhiwai Smith, Decolonizing Methodologies: Research and Indigenous Peoples, Zed Books, London/Dunedin, 1999; Ramón Grosfoguel, “The Epistemic Decolonial Turn,” Cultural Studies, Vol. 21, Nos. 2-3, 2007, pp. 211-223.

ii Ramón Grosfoguel, “The Epistemic Decolonial Turn,” p. 212.

iii Ibid.

iv “Introduction,” in L’Internationale Online ed., Decolonising Museums, 2015, p. 5. Accessed January 2016, http://www.internationaleonline.org/bookshelves/decolonising_museums.

v Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference, Princeton University Press, Princeton, NJ, 2000.

vi Monica Juneja, “Global Art History and the ‘Burden of Representation’,” in Hans Belting, Jacob Birken, Andrea Buddensieg, Peter Weibel eds., Global Studies: Mapping Contemporary Art and Cultures, ZKM, Karlsruhe, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2011, p. 282.

vii For instance, Magiciens de la terre (1989) is said to have globally changed the history of exhibitions, but what was its real impact on the Centre Pompidou’s policies? This is the kind of question that needs to be asked now that we have some distance.

viii Frantz Fanon, “Concerning Violence,” in The Wretched of the Earth, trans. Constance Farrington, Grove Press, New York, 1963, p. 35.

ix Clémentine Deliss, “Materiality and the Unknown, Dating, Anonymity, the Occult,” in L’Internationale Online ed., Decolonising Museums, p. 34.

x Ibid., p. 33.

xi Holland Cotter, “Making Museums Moral Again,” New York Times. March 17, 2016. Accessed March 2016, http://www.nytimes.com/2016/03/17/arts/design/making-museums-moral-again.html?_r=0. The use of the adverb “again” implies that museums have been moral once. This questionable statement could be the subject of a whole article.

xii See Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, Península. Procesos coloniales y prácticas artísticas y curatoriales. Accessed July 2016, http://www.museoreinasofia.es/pedagogias/centro-de-estudios/investigacion/peninsula.

xiii See proceedings published on L’Internationale Online. Accessed January 2016. http://www.internationaleonline.org/bookshelves/decolonising_museums.

xiv See full program here: https://vanabbemuseum.nl/en/programme/programme/collections-in-transition-sold-out/

xv See Marie-laure Allain Bonilla, Visualiser la théorie. Usages des théories postcoloniales dans les pratiques curatoriales de l’art contemporain depuis les années 1980. Ph.D. dissertation (art history), Rennes 2 University, 2014.

xvi For more detail, see our previous article published on the topic: Marie-laure Allain Bonilla. “Some Sketches for a Hypothetical Postcolonial Theories for Museums Handbook,” Qalqalah, No. 1, 2015, pp. 51-63. Available online: http://www.kadist.org/en/programs/all/2115.

xvii See published proceedings: Charles Green ed., Postcolonial + Art: Where Now?, Artspace Visual Arts Centre, Woolloomooloo, 2001.

xviii Rasheed Araeen, “A New Beginning. Beyond Postcolonial Cultural Theory and Identity Politics,” Third Text, No. 50, 2000, pp. 3-20.

xix Ibid., p. 8.

xx Ibid., p. 12.

xxi Ibid., p. 11.

xxii See: Rasheed Araeen, “Re-Thinking History and Some Other Things,” Third Text, No. 54, 2001, pp. 93-100; Rasheed Araeen, “The Success and the Failure of the Black Arts Movement,” Third Text, Vol. 18, No. 2, 2004, pp. 135-152.

xxiii Nikos Papastergiadis, “Cultural Identity and Its Boredom: Transculturalism and its Ecstasy,” in Nikos Papastergiadis ed., Complex Entanglements: Art, Globalisation and Cultural Difference, Rivers Oram Press, London, 2003, p. 162.

xxiv Ibid., p. 164.

xxv See Transnational Decolonial Institute. Accessed July 2016. https://transnationaldecolonialinstitute.wordpress.com/about-2/.

xxvi Ibid.

xxvii Sarat Maharaj, “Sublimated with Mineral Fury: prelim notes on sounding Pandemonium Asia,” in Farewell to Post-Colonialism, The Third Guangzhou Triennial. Guangzhou: Guandong Museum of Art, Time Museum, 2008, p. 53. Exhibition catalogue.

xxviii Chris Dercon speaking at the international conference Les Clefs d’une passion held at the Fondation Louis Vuitton, Paris, June 12-13, 2015.

xxix See Joaquín Barriendos Rodríguez, “Geopolitics of Global Art: The Reinvention of Latin America as a Geo-Aesthetic Region,” in Hans Belting, Andrea Buddensieg eds., The Global Art World. Audiences, Market and Museums, Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2009, pp. 98-116.

xxx That is one of the acquisition logics followed by some collectors of contemporary African art, such as Puma’s former CEO, the German Jochen Zeitz, who has been collecting contemporary African art for about twenty years with the idea of presenting it in a dedicated museum built on the continent in order to make it accessible to an audience directly concerned. The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa (Zeitz MOCAA) opened in September 2017 in Cape Town. It is not the first private museum of contemporary art in Cape Town. Last year, collector Piet Viljoen inaugurated the New Church, which hosts his collection of art from South Africa. Nonetheless, the Zeitz collection goes beyond the borders of South Africa and is much larger. For his part, Congolese businessman Sindika Dokolo, married to the daughter of Angolan President Isabel do Santos, would come to own no less than 5,000 artworks. Pending the opening of his own venue to host his collection in Luanda, Dokolo showed it in 2015 in Porto (Portugal), where he is considering establishing his European base. He also fights for the repatriation of African art stolen during the Angolan civil war and the colonial period.

xxxi Different programs have been established, such as The Unilever Series: turbinegeneration, which involves schools from the U.K. and all over the world working with Tate’s collection, or the Level 2 Exchange Series, which works with local art structures abroad and helps create exhibitions.

xxxii To date, 125 artworks in a variety of mediums have been added to the collection, bringing together 67 artists from the selected areas. See the Guggenheim website for more information: https://www.guggenheim.org/MAP. Accessed July 2016.

xxxiii Excerpt of the statement from the Director of Media and Public Relations, Betsy Ennis, as a response given to the South African online Journal ArtThrob asking why the sub-Saharan region of Africa was left out of the Guggenheim UBS Map Global Art Initiative. The rest of the statement read as follows: “Societies in Northern Africa pride themselves for their historical links to Arabic culture and language dating to the conquest of the region by Arab Muslims in the 7th and 8th centuries. The Middle East and North Africa have also shared the fate of suffering Western colonial rule, mainly French and British, followed a postcolonial experience where Egypt took the lead in advocating national rhetoric that based itself on an Arab cultural revivalism in the early 20th century. There are shared cultural commonalities that continue to tie the North African states to their counterparts in the Middle East. Arabic language, and primarily its script, play a leading role in disseminating political and cultural coherence. Language and script were particularly important tools for artists in the mid century who utilized script to create a unique abstract modern visual discourse. Contemporary artists continue to explore these shared histories and legacies.” Published online April 18, 2012 by M. Blackman: “Sub Saharan Africa out in the Cold,” Artthrob. Accessed May 2012 (no longer available). http://www.artthrob.co.za/News/Sub-Saharan-Africa-out-in-the-Cold-by-M-Blackman-on-18-April.aspx#.

xxxiv See, for example, Olu Oguibe’s argument in “In the Heart of Darkness,” Third Text, No. 23, 1993, pp. 3-8.

xxxv This important question needs to be addressed and requires further research that looks closely at links between private corporations, banks, and art institutions.

xxxvi Reesa Greenberg, “Activist-Patron-Curators and North American Museums,” in Heidi Bale Amundsen, Gerd Elise Mørland eds., Curating and Politics. Beyond the Curator: Initial Reflections,Hatje Cantz, Ostfildern, 2015, p. 53.

xxxvii Joaquín Barriendos Rodríguez, “Geopolitics of Global Art: The Reinvention of Latin America as a Geo-Aesthetic Region,” p. 110. The expression “coloniality of power” was coined by sociologist and political specialist Aníbal Quijano. See: “Colonialidad y modernidad/racionalidad.”

xxxviii Holland Cotter, “Making Museums Moral Again.”

xxxix Clémentine Deliss, “Materiality and the Unknown, Dating, Anonymity, the Occult,” p. 24.

xl More than 100,000 artworks for the Parisian museum and 90,000 for the Amsterdam museum.

xli Jelle Bouwhis, “How Far How Near – The World in the Stedelijk,” in How Far How Near – The World in the Stedelijk. Amsterdam: Stedelijk Museum, 2014, p. 1. Exhibition catalogue.

xlii Ibid., p. 2.

xliii See Ibid., p. 1-16.

xliv Ibid., p. 9.

xlv Ibid., p. 15.

xlvi Ibid., p. 12.

xlvii See the English online version: Christine Macel, “A History,” Haus der Kunst. Accessed July 2016. http://issuu.com/haus_der_kunst/docs/160418.hdk.essay.christine_macel/5?e=4227978/35159290.

xlviii Christine Macel, “A History,” p. 4.

xlix To pick just two examples: Chéri Samba is the only painter from the sub-Saharan part of the African continent to be represented in the collection of the Centre Pompidou, and only five photographers from this area are represented as well (Zanele Muholi, David Goldblatt, Guy Tillim, Malick Sidibé, and Samuel Fosso).

l Mirjam Kooiman, “The Dutch Voc Mentality,” in Decolonising Museums.

li Trinh T. Minh-ha, Woman, Native, Other: Writing Postcoloniality and Feminism, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, IN, 1989, p. 41.

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Issue 35

Decolonizing Art Institutions

by Roma Jam Session art Kollektiv

by Dorothee Richter & Ronald Kolb

by Shwetal A. Patel

by Shwetal A. Patel and Shaheen Merali

by Dorothee Richter

by Michelle Wong

by Binna Choi & Yolande van der Heide

by Sophie J Williamson