Colonial (Dis)Appearances in the Art Museum

"Colonialism ...", Elizabeth Edwards writes, “has an uneasy presence within public narratives of history” (2016). This presence constantly escapes spaces such as public museums, and is instead relegated to, in Edwards words, “elsewheres” – spaces, times, and disciplines outside of the museum. However, different types of museums have varying proximities to colonial history, and in this regard, the European art museum – both today and historically – seems further apart. Only in recent years have exhibitions dealing explicitly with colonial histories appeared. Does this imply that the art museum is an especially difficult place to discuss colonialism? Or is there simply a different kind of visibility, a different presence, of the colonial in the art museum, compared to ethnographic museums? Has the colonial disappeared from the art museum, or is it hypervisible? And are only certain colonial histories allowed within the museum?

This seminar invites curators and researchers that currently work with colonial history and/or work from post/decolonial perspectives in art museums. The seminar asks: how does colonial history become visible in the specific context of art museums? What are some of the difficulties of working with colonial history within art history? How do we retain the “uneasy presence” of colonialism in the context of art museums? What does a post/decolonial curatorial practice look like?

The invited speakers are currently engaged in exhibitions or curatorial research, and the goal of the seminar is to create a space for shared experiences and questions.


10-10:15  Coffee and welcome

10:15  Welcome & introduction
            Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen

10:30  HERE. Black in Rembrandt's time
            Stephanie Archangel

11:30  No one creates alone - On transnational circulation in Sonja
            Ferlov Mancobas work and thinking
            Johanne Løgstrup

12:00  Lunch

13:00  Strategies for collecting and exhibiting colonial histories in
            the National Gallery?
            Dorthe Aagesen

14:00  Arearea no varua ino - Words of the Devil or Reclining
            Tahitian Women?
            Anna Kærsgaard Gregersen

14:30  Pourquoi naître esclave!
            Christine Tommerup

15:00  Coffee and break

15:30  Between Amsterdam and the Caribbean. Museum Curating
            in Times of Change
´          Claire van Els

16:30  Art Walk With the ghosts of the West Indian Warehouse
            Henrik Holm

The seminar is open to all and free of charge, but please sign up beforehand by mail to before 25 October.

The seminar is funded by Independent Research Fund Denmark

About the speakers

Stephanie Archangel is a junior curator at the History Department at the Rijksmuseum. She was co-curator of the exhibition ‘80 Years of War. The birth of the Netherlands’. And is momentarilly working on the Slavery exhibition that will be on display in 2020.

Claire van Els is junior curator at the Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam. She studied Art History at the University of Amsterdam, specializing in contemporary art and theory, and the history of feminist exhibitions. She is currently involved in the exhibitions Prix de Rome (2019), Surinamese School (working title) (2020) and Caribbean Presence (possibly due in 2022).

Anna Kærsgaard Gregersen is curator at Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek, modern collection. Working with contemporary art and late 19th/20th century painting with a special interest in new materialism and objecthood as well as decolonial and feminist perspectives on art and culture. Currently researching on how to enlarge upon the way in which Paul Gauguin's legacy is understood and received.

Henrik Holm has been curator of the Royal Cast Collection (SMK) since 2006 and is now part of the digital project SMK Open. He has conducted research in national identity, in the history of cast collections and in topics related to the Danish Golden Age.

Anna Vestergaard Jørgensen is PhD Student at the Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK) and University of Copenhagen. The research project “The Museum and its Discontents – Discomfort and Difficulties in the Museum Space” focuses on how contemporary art museums work with discomforting subjects such as colonialism.

Johanne Løgstrup is curator and PhD candidate at the Department of Aesthetics and Culture at the University of Aarhus, Denmark where she is part of the research project The Contemporary Condition. Her specific project analyzes Contemporary Art and the possibilities of curating in the light of a discourse of contemporaneity within Art Museums today.

Christine Tommerup is curator of Danish and French Art of the 19th century at the New Carlsberg Glyptotek. Master in Art History from the University of Copenhagen. Currently working on a phD project on Auguste Rodin’s collections of Antiquities in collaboration with Aarhus University and founded by the New Carlsberg Foundation.

Dorthe Aagesen is Chief Curator and Senior Researcher at the Statens Museum for Kunst (SMK) where she has worked since 1999. She oversees the Museum’s modern collection, while also organizing temporary exhibitions and developing collection programmes. Co-curator of a forthcoming exhibition on German Expressionism, anthropology, and colonialism.