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Provocations in art: cultural appropriation


● Fully booked

Friday 29 September 2017
6.30 — 7.45pm

This event has now ended

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Part of our

Matisse in the Studio

events programme
Go to exhibition page

Yinka Shonibare RA, Cheeky Little Astronomer (detail), 1962.

Fibre glass life-sized mannequin, dutch wax printed cotton textile, leather, resin, chair, globe and telescope. Courtesy the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery and Royal Museums Greenwich. Photo: R.A./Steve White © Royal Academy of Arts, London.

Artists Yinka Shonibare RA and WESSIELING join ‘Matisse in the Studio’ co-curator Ellen McBreen to examine the ethical and artistic considerations of cultural appropriation within the arts, in a discussion chaired by writer and broadcaster Bidisha.

Artists across different mediums often draw on ideas or subjects from other cultures. A collector of objects from around the world, from Chinese calligraphy to textiles from Polynesia, Henri Matisse included cultural references in his work that he drew from the objects he collected. However, these references had the potential to misrepresent the culture to which the objects belonged. So when does referencing become misrepresentation and borrowing become cultural appropriation?

Using Matisse in the Studio as a starting point, our discussion examines the issues encountered when artists use cultural referencing in their work. Cultural exchange can lead to great works of art, but can artists represent a different culture in their work without controversy? How do we determine the ownership of culture and what does it mean for the creative process?

In this discussion, artist Yinka Shonibare RA, artist and cultural historian WESSIELING, and co-curator of the Matisse exhibition, Ellen McBreen, will explore the moral and creative considerations of cultural appropriation in the arts with writer and broadcaster Bidisha.

This event will be BSL interpreted.

Bidisha (Chair) is a British journalist, critic and broadcaster for the BBC, Channel 4 and Sky. She specialises in international human rights, social justice, gender and the arts and offers political analysis and cultural diplomacy tying these interests together. She also does outreach work in UK prisons, refugee charities and detention centres. She is currently part of the year-long City of Stories writers’ residency for London-based writers.

WESSIELING is a cultural historian and visual artist, whose work concerns the aestheticisation of the everyday through the lens of fashion. Her practice uses text and installation to create work that addresses the cultural property and soft power of fashion. She studied fine art at Central Saint Martin College of Art and Design. Currently a Reader at Northumbria University (United Kingdom), she is the author of Fusionable Cheongsam (2007) and co-edited Making Fashion in Multiple Chinas (forthcoming). Both academic writing and visual art practice spin off her inquiry of the (in)tangible assets of fashion, identity, globalisation, (post)colonialism and cultural hybridity

Ellen McBreen is an art historian specializing in late 19th/early 20th-century French art and visual culture. She is the co-curator of Matisse in the Studio and co-editor and author of the accompanying exhibition catalogue. Her book Matisse’s Sculpture: the Pinup and the Primitive was published by Yale University Press in 2014. She is currently associate professor of art history at Wheaton College in Massachusetts (USA).

Yinka Shonibare MBE studied Fine Art, first at Byam School of Art (now Central Saint Martins College) and then at Goldsmiths College, where he received his MFA. Shonibare’s work explores issues of race and class through the media of painting, sculpture, photography and film. Shonibare questions the meaning of cultural and national definitions. His trademark material is the brightly coloured “African” batik fabric he buys in London. This type of fabric was inspired by Indonesian design, mass-produced by the Dutch and eventually sold to the colonies in West Africa. In the 1960s the material became a new sign of African identity and independence.

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

Friday 29 September 2017

6.30 — 7.45pm

The Reynolds Room, Burlington House, Royal Academy of Arts, Piccadilly

£12, £6 concessions.