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.