I’ve decided I’m going to focus on art for my online collection. I’m going to search collections around the world and select my favorite pieces of art, predominantly from the modern period. I want to make sure I get art from each continent, not just Europe. I had been pursuing an Art History minor for a while and, although I really enjoyed everything I had been exposed to I was disappointed with the lack of diversity in the curriculum. In most Art History classes we are only shown the world of art in the Western sense. For example, two required courses are Art of the Western World 1 and Art of the Western World 2. Pretty much all of the other courses deal with Renaissance or Greek art and there are a few dedicated to Asian art. I’m currently taking Arts of Later China, last semester I took Arts of Early China, both very enjoyable classes.
The only view we are given of the art that comes from Latin America, Africa, the Caribbean, etc. comes from Western interpretations such as Picasso’s Les Demoiselles d’Avignon where he gains inspiration for the masks the prostitutes depicted are wearing from African masks he had come across in a shop in Paris. Or Paul Gaugin’s paintings that had been influenced by his travels to Tahiti, such as Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going? These are two examples of paintings that have received foreign influence from areas that had been dominated by European imperialism. This connects directly to Edward Said’s theory of Orientalism where he critiques the Western world of fetishizing and ideologically enforcing its imperialism upon those lands it colonizes. (That being said, I dig both works and both artists)
I want to see if there are collections out there that hold artwork native to places that are so often overlooked and silenced. I find it difficult to believe there aren’t any Afro-Latino cultures that have art worth studying. I have similar issues with the curriculum in the English department. The lack of incorporation of other writers that do not come from western cultures such as England, France, or America does an injustice to those involved in the institution. We should be gaining an education that is more worldly and incorporates more than just writings that reinforce ruling ideologies. It would be nice to be assigned Richard Wright’s Native Son or Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man in an English class dealing with American literature. We shouldn’t have to be black studies majors, or in another department dealing with race issues to study these works of literature, they are as American as Ralph Ellison or Henry Thoreau.
I’m hoping my collection is able to grant a good sense of the modern period in a way that captures the entire globe not just a sliver of it. I would also; if possible, like to capture the art of as many socio-economic groups as possible, not just what was upheld by the elite. Don’t know how this is going to go yet but I think it’ll be some fun putting together. Plus, despite the critique I have concerning the negligence of outside cultures by the ruling tastes of art in the Western world, there are tons of really great works I’m looking forward to viewing within European traditions.