“Something is happening. This feels different. This is our moment” Words spoken with such hope and passion reflecting a whole generation of marginalized people. With a wave of Anti-racism campaigns, protests and boycotts Artists have found themselves capturing images, feelings, and reactions within society. Black artists, for years, have been at the forefront of racial activism painting and showcasing Art that expresses their pain, difficulty, and struggle as a person of color.
With many vowing to support black creatives, many are looking at the art sector to see how they have supported their artists of color and what’s next. Hauser & Wirth, a blue-chip gallery with a diverse roster of artists, posted their commitment to searching for solutions. Tate posted a picture of Chris Ofili’s No Woman No Cry painting while outlining their duty to speak up for human rights and anti-racism. But many major established galleries and art platforms have remained largely quiet, ignoring the call for action yet profiting from the art they create. Galleries and Museums are supposed to be leading cultural discourse, and so they need to embrace culture in its entirety, expanding the demographic on the walls and through the doors, if they want to make any meaningful change.
Perhaps the art world thinks it’s enough that visibility for black artists is incrementally increasing. The roll call of the past few years in the US and UK includes Kehinde Wiley and Amy Sherald’s official portraits of the Obamas, Martin Puryear representing the US at the 2019 Venice Biennale, the Soul of a Nation show at Tate Modern, and Sonia Boyce getting set to represent the UK in the 2022 Venice Biennale – the first black female artist to do so. But she shouldn’t be patting ourselves on the back just yet. With 87% of artists in galleries being white and predominately male we still have a long way to go to include Black, transgender, female, and minority artists.
We are slowly seeing the promotion of BAME artists across the world from Latin America to Africa to Europe and beyond. Many have expressed their desire to educate, teach, and expose their industry to the amazing work and the struggle minority artists experience. The conversations we are having with ourselves and with others should bring about change. I urge us to be aware of the role we have to play in standing up to racial bias. Art can help us understand our subjectivity and transport us to other worlds, histories, and viewpoints to better understand the world we live in now.
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