More voices from the inside

29 09 2009

A volunteer of the Asian Art Museum notes on her blog Artemisia Speaks the pride that museum staff take in the fact that “Lords of the Samurai” is their second most successful show of all time.

What was the first, and what does it tell us about “what we love,” as she puts it?  Click here to find out.

Volunteer Artemisia makes the point that as far as box office success at the Asian Art Museum goes:  “Orientalism lives!”

Meanwhile, Anne, an educator at another Asian art museum, speaks to her own education staff’s efforts to bring informed, alternative perspectives and counter the stereotypes promoted by Orientalist museum exhibitions.  At this other museum, educators work — unsupported by curatorial staff or leadership — to “counter the institutional voice that assumes that exoticizing the topic is ‘what the people want,'” making the point that “it’s a myth that wrestling with important issues and having a sense of humor and play are mutually exclusive.

Anne and Artemisia both point to an ongoing reality of Orientalist practices in the name of box office at Asian art museums in this country.

According to the Asian Art Museum’s chief curator, quoted in last week’s San Francisco Chronicle, “The kinds of criticisms that were raised we think about all the time.  This is our daily conversation . . . issues of Orientalism, of context . . .”

If that’s the case, then why the disconnect between daily conversation and ongoing Orientalist practices? Where is the voice of museum leadership in all this? Where is the accountability, or even recognition of the need for change?

Is it true that the Asian Art Museum is indeed a place where “Orientalism lives” in 2009?

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