As Britain’s galleries and museums begin to reopen their doors, it’s hard not think about all that has been unearthed over the past few months.
While the return of some form of cultural calendar, albeit much reduced, is to be welcomed, our institutions are opening amid a very different landscape, the Black Lives Matter movement having ignited earnest debates about how statues and cultural objects are displayed in today’s society.
While the toppling of Edward Colston’s statue in Bristol made headlines, less attention was paid when, in 2006, artist Huw Locke 'decorated' the statue in gold as part of a photography series exploring the subject of colonialism. Now, it would be remiss not to see the statue’s ultimate demise merely as the lighting of a touch-paper. As we see more statues defaced, more artefacts called into question, it’s clear the debate stretches far beyond the removal of a few statues of colonial figures, introducing new debate over how we display our art.
Indeed, soon after the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, commissioned a review of all statues in our capital, Shadow Foreign Secretary Lisa Nandy followed suit with a request for the removal of five historical racist murals currently on display in the Foreign Office.
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