Anish Kapoor called on museums to go beyond tokenism in their diversity efforts.

Daria Simone Harper
Jul 13, 2020 4:37PM, via The Guardian

Anish Kapoor in front of his sculpture Sky Mirror at Houghton Hall in the United Kingdom. Photo by Joe Giddens/PA Images via Getty Images.

Turner Prize-winning artist Anish Kapoor called on art galleries and museums to put an end to their cultural tokenism. The British-Indian artist—whose exhibition of outdoor sculptures opened at Norfolk’s Houghton Hall yesterday—said that institutions need to examine what contemporary culture truly looks like to better determine the objects being included in their collections.

Kapoor told The Guardian:

Artists like me, artists from elsewhere, have to refuse—we have to say no more tokenism. Collect the work properly or don’t collect it at all, both are fine. Museums are paying lip service to world art. We have to think about it again ... radically. It is a hard thing to do. But when was it easy? Our museums have a lot of work to do. For the great historic museums they have to recognize—out of what legacy the collections come.

Kapoor’s remarks came ahead of his exhibition, “Anish Kapoor at Houghton Hall,” which was originally scheduled for early this year, but was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The exhibition features 24 sculptures, a selection of drawings, and smaller works, making it the artist’s largest U.K. exhibition of outdoor sculptures. The presentation also includes Kapoor’s 2018 artwork Sky Mirror, a 16-foot wide mirror of polished stainless steel that curves inward. The show will be up through November 1st at Houghton Hall, the historic home of the U.K.’s first prime minister.

One of Kapoor’s comments seems to critique the ‘world art’ category used by various U.K. museums. The World Museum in Liverpool will overhaul its main World Cultures Gallery because of the racism present in its current display, according to museum officials. Emma Martin, the institution’s lead curator of globalization, told The Art Newspaper: “When I take people around the gallery and introduce the changes we are working towards, I describe the gallery as it currently stands as racist.”

Daria Simone Harper
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