Creating new realities: contemporary art in the 'world art' museum gallery

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Artistic museum intervention has become an established practice since late 1980s and has been used by museums as a curatorial and interpretive tool ever since. Exhibitions such as 'Uncomfortable Truths: The Shadow of Slave Trading on Contemporary Art' held at the V&A in London (February-June 2007), and 'Queering the Museum' at the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery (November 2010-February 2011) are recent testimonies of museums’ welcoming approach towards invited artists’ interventions. Author Miwon Kwon has described commissioning institutional interventions negatively as the museum’s self-promotional tool and the resulting status of the artist as commodity. Prior to this, in his 1997 essay ‘The Artist as Ethnographer?’ Hal Foster described the artist’s subjective engagement with institutions and communities as 'ethnographic self-fashioning'. Whilst museums are engaging with its multi-cultural audience through events and activities, the potential of the artistic sub-altern voice in bringing both personal and global associations to the collections offers a non-monologic interpretive approach. This article, however, critically reflects upon the collaboration between ethnographic museums and artists from the diasporas as a method of displaying 'the other' or the work of the celebrity artist. It makes a case for a non-tokenistic and a more democratic process of intervening the museum, one that opens it up as a valuable and accessible site for fresh epistemological engagements by the artist with collections and their meanings.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149-168
Number of pages20
JournalInternational Journal of the Arts in Society
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2012


  • Museum Intervention
  • World Art
  • Curation
  • Interactive Art
  • Hindu
  • Diaspora
  • Croydon Clocktower


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