Uncomfortable Art Tours
Uncomfortable Art Tours are exactly what they sound like.
In a country that’s repeatedly failed to come to terms with its colonial past, led by politicians who seem to think the past is the future, we seek to resist triumphalist nostalgia with art history. How did the narratives of Empire come into being? Who controls them? And how can we learn to see through the whitewash to the truth?
These Tours focus on how major institutions came into being against a backdrop of imperialism. On each tour, we unravel the role colonialism played in shaping and funding a major national collection, looking at the broader material history of celebrated works: where the money comes from, the ways they’ve been displayed, and the ideological aesthetics at work. The history of British art is also the history of empire and genocide, written by collectors who traded in landscapes and lives.
Currently, Uncomfortable Art Tours run at six sites: the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain and the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum).
The Tours first ran in June 2017 as part of the Antiuniversity Now festival.
Display it like you stole it
‘display it like you stole it’ is a call for museums to rethink the politics of display in their galleries. From label text to lighting, how is ownership created and dissent shut down? Who is the authorial voice here, and what is considered worthy of inclusion? It’s well past time for museums to be honest about their acquisitions history and how objects arrive in their collections in the first place.
Badges are available at Uncomfortable Art Tours, and at some events.
The Exhibitionist started as a podcast. It's on long term hiatus while Alice works on other things. It's still available here:
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Alice is a historian of material culture based at UCL. She has six years of tour guiding experience at heritage sites and galleries. She curates exhibitions, organises events, makes podcasts and writes things under the umbrella of The Exhibitionist.
Her academic work concentrates on the intersections of postcolonial art practice and colonial material culture, investigating the curation of historical trauma and national identity, and includes research into new modes of dissenting narrative in museum spaces. She is Australian.
If you want to collaborate on a project, organise a tour or workshop or generally have a chat, get in touch.
You can help by keep tours and workshops as affordable as possible, so by supporting The Exhibitionist you're also helping those who might not be able to pay for a tour, or have limited access to museums and galleries.