You know my eternal pain, the primordial one, that actually started this blog? It's the pain of not seeing black faces at white people's places where I like to go: galleries, museums, opera, Royal Albert Hall etc.
Whenever I come back from trips to Greece, Iran, Bulgaria, Jordan, Romania, my first, instantaneous joy of "I'm home" lights at the sight of coloured faces at the airport. As the offspring of two races representative of two linguistic groups: one writing from right to left and the other one writing "return"; London feels as much "home" as it can get for a "To-there-and-back-writing person" as myself.
Last year 2017, though, there was an exception - Basquiat's exhibition at the Barbican Art Gallery (the article dedicated to this exhibition could be read bellow this one). This year, 2018, The National Portrait Gallery did it with Michael Jackson on the Wall. Both attracting pleasantly mixed crowds.
It so happened, that this October 2018, exactly a year after writing the first article on LAAF dedicated to the Barbican’s Basquiat exhibition, I was in Paris where I visited Fondation Louis Vuitton's Basquiat exhibition from which I bring two notices.
The good one; here, in London, plenty of black people could be seen present in the audience at black artists' exhibitions. Hence, in London we know exactly how to bring diverse crowds to the galleries. In Paris on the other hand, the only black people present at the Basquiat exhibition were the gallery guardians. And two young black men, whose presence did actually revive all my forgotten anguishes on the subject. Thus, on the matter of diversity in the galleries when artists of colour are exhibited, London scores better than Paris. The country of Fraternity and Equality is hard to be beaten racism wise.
The bad news is that very few temporary exhibitions in London could surpass the scale of an average Paris exhibition. The number of Jean-Michel Basquiat's works presented at Fondation Luis Vuitton is about ten times bigger than those exhibited at the Barbican Art Gallery last year.
While I was still marvelling at the paintings on the ground floor (of four floors!), an old children's rhyme started looping in my head "Voila comme je suis, voila comme j'arrose, moi je fais grandement les choses" - "This is how I am, and this is how I nurture, I do all things with grandeur" as the rain once said to the water-pot. And honestly, one could be content with the local scale only if one forgets the Parisian one. The explanation? Probably the national funding. In Paris, private Luis Vuitton Foumdation has to compete with publicly funded colossi as Grande Pallet, Petit Pallet, L'Orangerie etc etc.
Basically, if cities were measuring their balls using for a criteria the quality and quantity of publicly available art, London would be run out of the ring with a bleeding nose. Alas.
But let stick to the positive and count our treasures:
London is less raicist than Paris.
London attracts black crowds in its galleries when exhibiting black artists.
London's major galleries next step is to produce all of the future Basquiats. How? Easy. By dedicating a space, or a minimum number of paintings/works to black artists or art representing black people. Thus, black children will be taken by their mothers to the Famous&Black gallery at the NPG; or We Do Remember The Days of Slavery Gallery at the NG... et les voila the new Basquiats shining on the horizon, numerous and bright.
Don't worry, Paris won't beat us. No matter which artist do their galleries show, the only people of colour present in the galleries will be the serving personnel.
Last but not least, we have Black Earth Rising with Michaela Coel, Noma Dumezweni Tamara Tunie, Treva Etienne, Nicholas Beveney and eany other beautiful, black faces on the BBC. They have false blondes on all their TF1, France2, France3, Canal+, France5 etc etc.