Kawaguchi:   Karen, thank you very much for your picking up my points. But I would like to add to a point I was making in an earlier response on the question of museums and the framing of contemporary African art.

I wrote in the mail that “in my experience, this difference or gap between the two kinds of museums (i.e. ethnological museums and art museums/galleries) is more clearly seen in countries outside Europe.”     Here let me show you some words of Sokari Douglas-Camp, a Nigerian born and London based artist interviewed by Bisi Silva, an independent curator in Lagos: “I never imagined I would get caught in anything being an artist, just as I did not really believe that museums and galleries were that different…(Bisi Silva, “The Politics of Re/Presenting: Within and Without,” in Kawaguchi et al, A Fateful Journey: Africa in the Works of El Anastui (exh. cat.), The Yomiuri Shimbun, The Japan Association of Art Museums, 2010, p.199.)

Sokari mentioned her early experience of being shown at the Museum of Mankind in London in 1995 on the occasion Africa 95.   Her words suggest that even in the West there is a difference or a gap between two kinds of museums.  Or it might be more accurate to say that the difference or the gap is more clearly visible to the eyes of an artist coming from Africa.  Then it looks quite curious that this difference or gap is seldom put on the table of discussion in the Western artworld.   The reason, I imagine, is that it would be more useful for the West not to speak openly about it.

You know we have a very famous joke relating to the British Museum:You can see any cultural treasures at the British Museum but British ones. Yes, sure.  You have to visit the National Gallery or the Tate Gallery, and you can see British cultural treasures displayed under the title of fine arts as much as you like.   Generally speaking, not only in Britain but also in other European countries, cultures from non-European counties are likely to be displayed in ethnological museums as specimens or just materials, while cultures from Europe are exhibited in art museums/galleries as artworks.   Thus European countries are to be celebrated as a highly civilized world with a lot of artworks, while non-European countries including African ones are to remain the world to be civilized mainly with a full of specimens and materials.

Advertisements