Shifting Otherness in the Universal Museum: The Victoria and Albert Museum through the Prism of Contemporary Artists

By Seong Eun Kim.

Published by The Diversity Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

This paper will explore some interesting contemporary art, not in the context of an art gallery but in a universal museum. My starting point is the notion of the universal museum that means to represent world cultures in accordance with its 'universal' mission for the sake of mankind, so to speak. It classifies material objects and their people and evokes historical memory and cultural identity in the museological space. This can be applied to the Victoria and Albert Museum, the national museum of art and design in Britain. There is a growing tendency in the Museum to collect and exhibit the work of contemporary artists, which does not appear to be in its staple domain of decorative and applied arts. What I will examine among them in this paper is the work of Maud Sulter, Sheela Gowda, Hew Locke and Vong Phaophanit, who are related to the cultural background of Ghana, India, Guyana and Laos respectively. The four case studies constructed from an anthropological point of view will be focusing on the significance of their artworks that shed light on changing site-specificities of the universal museum as instituted in Britain, which should be open to the multivalence of shifting cultural otherness.

Keywords: Universal Museum, Transnational Artist, Cross-Cultural Representation, Created and Mediated Otherness

International Journal of Diversity in Organizations, Communities and Nations, Volume 7, Issue 6, pp.1-8. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 526.827KB).

Seong Eun Kim

Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK

D.Phil. candidate, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, UK.

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