In Leicester, we have just started our Object journeys project, provisionally called’ Global Artists’. I’m Malika Kraamer, the curator of world arts here in the Leicester Arts and Museums Service, facilitating, coordinating and enjoying the proposed intervention with some painted to dimensional objects (mainly paintings) from the British Museum collection in our World Arts gallery in New Walk Museum and Art Gallery in Leicester.
In this blog, I would like to outline both the background to and the beginnings of our project.
The World Arts section of New Walk Museum and Art Gallery was put together in the mid-2000s. At the moment, there are no 2D paintings in this gallery, which we feel is problematic for different reasons and so we wanted to change that. We wanted to work with a core group of (self-defined) artists – from highly established to amateurs – who for one or another reason have an understanding of at least two art ecologies (or art worlds) in different parts of the world. The group will take the lead on co-curating the three paintings they will help select from a longlist of 20-30 paintings from the British Museum collections . They will also lead on the interpretation of these paintings, within the context of the World Arts gallery. The BM paintings will be hanging in the museum from Autumn 2017 for at least 6 months.
At the moment, we are looking to partner with people who are interested in this collaborative project and we have been ‘recruiting’ in the following four ways: approaching refugee artists, talking to DeMontfort University art students, peer-recruiting and serendipity. By the last, I mean just chatting with different people, asking colleagues and allowing for the fact that sometimes you can just come across people by sheer luck. For instance, I went to a workshop the other day and sat next to a person who turned out to be really interested in this project. She moved from Bengal in India to Leicester many years ago and makes art in her free time.
Recently, the ‘Global Artists’ project had its first advisory group meeting. In September, I spent an entire day in the British Museum exploring the collections database for painted 2D-objects from the Asian, African, Americas and Oceania collections. In order to quickly choose a list of potential objects to borrow (all museums need a long time to organise potential loans), we decided to set up an advisory panel with experts with artistic backgrounds to help me to make the pre-selection and to be a sounding board for the core group (to be set up in next couple of months) if they wish so.
We had a very productive meeting which resulted in a long list of paintings from all over the world being compiled, of which a list of approximately 20 paintings will be used by the core group to make their final selection of three paintings. We had four people able to come: Sandra Dudley from Museum Studies (University of Leicester), Atta Kwami (artist and curator), Pamela Clarkson and Khush Kali (both artists). Some others who were unable to attend have been giving feedback via email. I gathered all the information and send a nice wish list to the British Museum! We also had an internal meeting to sort all the timelines for the project with different teams at the Museum (e.g. design, conservation, documentation). As is the case in many museums, we all manage to juggle a lot of projects at the same time, so coordination is key!