This is the case, for example, since 1945, of most works of art commissioned or appreciated by the Nazis, even when their subject does not touch on the destructive obsessions of Nazism.
But, more recently, the problem of the exhibition of works of art in the museum has been raised, fresh again, in the numerous cases where they offend our contemporary sensibility. Can we exhibit works of art from the past when their content seems explicitly racist or degrading for women?
Quite recently (2018), the curator of the Manchester National Gallery had a painting by the pre-Raphaelite painter John William Waterhouse removed from the picture rails, the subject of which, Hylas bathing among the nymphs, was considered sexist. It was in fact only a performance, wanted by the artist Sonia Boyce, and intended to make the public react. The reactions, in fact, were not lacking, giving rise to a lively popular debate in England.
Caroline Ibos “I don’t think objectivity is neutral but museum objectivity is actually male dominance objectivity.”
The Morning Guest
The conflict of sensibilities, between aesthetic judgment and cultural and political judgment, as it is expressed in the museum, is only at its beginnings and will undoubtedly be one of the major questions to which the institution will have to respond. in the years to come.
To talk about it, Bruno Nassim Aboudrarprofessor of art history and theory, producer of this series on “Art is the Unknown”, receives Caroline Ibossociologist of politics and gender, professor at the University of Paris 8, author of several contributions on the links between gender and art, Anne-Lafontart historian, director of research at the EHESS, author in particular of Art and Race. The African (everything) against the eye of the Enlightenment (2019), and Francois Mairessemuseologist, holder of the UNESCO Chair for the study of museum diversity and professor at the Sorbonne Nouvelle University.
Francois Mairesse “Museums and libraries are intended to show and at the same time, as Umberto Eco said in From Bibliotheca : “The library is also to hide a certain number of books”. The same can therefore be said for museums.
Francois Mairesse “It is the role of the curator who will truly designate, and for a very long time, it was the role of the museum to designate, name, recognize and invent objects – especially in natural history museums […]. But what is important to see is that these denominations, including in natural history, can evolve over the years. And what is very interesting to observe is that sometimes one denomination will drive out the other, in particular for perspectives which are those of censorship.”
Anne-Lafont It is a very beautiful portrait [Portrait de Jean-Baptiste Belley] which was exhibited for the first time in 1797, the same year it was finished by the artist, but in a small private exhibition at the Élysée Palace and by a society of men of letters. The title was “Portrait of a Negro”. However, there was an awareness, from the end of the 18th century, that the very idea of associating a human being with a Negro was denigrating: it was a way of associating him with a statue of a slave. And a year later, we exhibited exactly the same portrait and was entitled “Citizen, Citizen Bellet, in the dress of a representative of the Republic”.
Caroline Ibos “I am thinking of this sketch by Manet: Children at the Tuileries. We see a nurse who is almost in the foreground, but we do not name her. So actually, there are devices of social invisibilization that we findit seems to me, in the question of what is named and what is not named in museums.
Caroline Ibos “Is an anti-racist museum a museum that hides what racism was, and racism in art? Or is it a museum that comes to problematize and which precisely allows to question this racial violence or this gender violence? […] The tables are not dangerous in themselves. It all depends on how we show them, what is the device to show them.”
Anne-Lafont “The professional systems of museums must accompany the understanding of these images. And the more we seize them, even in the conflict of these images, the more they will be neutralized, ie neutralized in their aggressive charge.“
Francois Mairesse “It is one of the main and historical roles of the museum, in any case of the scientific museum, to objectify. […] And I think there’s still that role that’s kind of partially fought over, and more and more. It is also linked to our relationship with modern sciences which is in the process of being transformed and which leads to the contestation of this objective gaze which, throughout the 19th century, created objects, including human bodies which were presented as objects, precisely because of this relationship to science.”
Caroline Ibos I think that at the National Assembly, a fresco commemorating the abolition of slavery should not need a cartel. I think we should be able to seize it immediately as a celebration of the abolition of slavery. But there [avec l’oeuvre d’Hervé]this is not the case because not only do they [visages représentés] have big red lips, bulging eyes, but they also have black skin. […] The question is : what does this representation have to do with the National Assembly? A representation that is very stereotyped, with two figures that we immediately read with popular culture through the prism of Banania.”
➢ About Caroline Ibos
➢ About Anne Lafont
- Its presentation pages on the site
from the EHESSon
wikipediaand on the website of the
- To watchhis back-to-school conference (2020) at the Collège de France,
What does African art do to the notion of civilization? (You tube channel of the College de France).
- His bibliography at
editions of the Presses du Réeland in particular his book published in 2019,
Art and race – the African (everything) against the eye of the Enlightenment.
- Also note his book published in 2022, co-written with François-Xavier Fauvelle, historian, archaeologist and professor at the College de France,
Africa and the world: retold stories. From prehistory to the 21st century (Discovery edition).
➢ About Francois Mairesse
- Its presentation pages on the site of
the University of the Sorbonne Nouvelleon the website of
Cerlis laboratory (Centre for Research on Social Ties), on
wikipediaon the network
LinkedIn and on the website
- His publications on the site
Cairn.infoand in particular his recent work co-edited with Fabien Van Geert,
Museum mediation, new challenges, new forms (Harmattan editions, December 2022).
- Page presenting the
UNESCO Chair at the Sorbonne Nouvelle for the study
of museum diversity and its evolution (Muséosources website).
- Two videos :
François Mairesse, the museum and museology (You tube Mêtis channel) or,
One Click, One Title #8 – Writing museology (You tube channel of the Sorbonne Nouvelle University).
- Extract of “
Hamlet” by Peter Brook with Adrien Lester (2002).
virgins” created and sung by Yvette Guilbert (1907).