Should museums be made to give back their marbles? Is it even possible to ‘decolonise’ our galleries? Must Rhodes fall?
From the stolen Wakandan art in Black Panther, to Emmanuel Macron’s recent commitment to art restitution, and Beyoncé and Jay Z’s provocative music video filmed in the Louvre, the question of decolonising our relationship with the art around us is quickly gaining traction. People are waking up to the seedy history of the world’s art collections, and are starting to ask difficult questions about what the future of museums should look like. In The Whole Picture, art historian and Uncomfortable Art Tour guide Alice Procter provides a manual for deconstructing everything you thought you knew about art, and fills in the blanks with the stories that have been left out of the art history canon for centuries.
The book is divided into four chronological sections, named after four different kinds of art space: The Palace The Classroom The Memorial
Each section tackles the fascinating and often shocking stories of five different art pieces, including the propaganda painting that the East India Company used to justify its control in India; the Maori mokomokai skulls that were traded and collected by Europeans as ‘art objects’; and Kara Walker’s controversial contemporary sculpture A Subtlety, which raised questions about ‘appropriate’ interactions with art. Through these stories, Alice brings out the underlying colonial narrative lurking beneath the art industry today, and suggests different ways of seeing and thinking about art in the modern world. The Whole Pictureis a much-needed provocation to look more critically at the accepted narratives about art, and rethink and disrupt the way we interact with the museums and galleries that display it.