Okeke-Agulu: I want to thank each and every one of us for taking part in this memorable conversation on a topic–or rather range of topics–that I am sure will continue to preoccupy students, practitioners and scholars in the field of modern and contemporary art. What is clear from our deliberations is that these issues have important resonances to the way museums engaged with art today do their work or imagine their place in the age of globalization. Recent economic, political and sociological trends, particularly in Euro-America with their tradition of well-constituted museums of modern and contemporary art, have dictated a re-thinking of museological approaches to normative fields of art and even more so to new vistas that have opened up since the last decades of the twentieth century. And this is where, I think, art from Africa and its Diaspora, and from the “peripheries” have contributed in changing—even if slowly—the art museum in unpredictable ways.
On the African continent, the link between strong economies and modern cultural institutions such as the art museum is so utterly obvious (one needs only look at South Africa), and the challenge going forward is how modern and contemporary art can continue to be relevant to knowledge production in the many African countries that lack proper art museums. Will Africa have to rely, as seems the case at the moment, on the unquestionably vibrant, though small, independent spaces–many of which depend on overseas funding–that have mushroomed in the past few years across the continent?
While there is no doubt that great strides have been made in terms of visibility of work by African artists in western art museums, I am less sanguine about an upswing in the establishment and support of art museums inside Africa, and even more so in the possibility of the relatively more endowed national ethnological museums engaging in the kinds of “experiments” with contemporary art such as we see in the west and Japan. Ultimately, these issues will continue to haunt the way we think of contemporary African art as an important facet in the cultural life of the continent, and as a vital element 21st century global imaginaries.
I wish to thank each and every one of us for sparing the time, especially during these early summer months of travels and exhibitions to participate in this conversation. It has been a learning experience for me, and I am honored to have been able to bring this august group together despite the great distances. Thanks also to those–a shout out to Anitra Nettleton and Antawan I. Byrd–who sent substantive comments to the blog, and to the many, many silent readers that have followed the discussion online.