Online CODARTfocus: HERE. Black in Rembrandt’s Time
On Wednesday 2 December 2020 CODART organized an online CODARTfocus meeting on the occasion of the exhibition HERE. Black in Rembrandt’s Time, which took place at the Rembrandt House Museum in the summer of 2020.
The focus consisted of a pre-recorded conversation between four creators of the exhibition followed by a live interactive conversation with CODART members, during which all participants were encouraged to share their thoughts and experiences. The pre-recorded conversation is available below, the recording of the CODARTfocus is available to CODART members. Please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to receive a private link to the recording.
Over the course of the past six months, the issue of diversity and inclusion has been widely discussed in the museum world at large and, more specifically, within the field of Dutch and Flemish art. What role do museums play in addressing social issues such as systemic and institutional racism, and which stories do or should they tell with and about the objects in their collections? In this context the exhibition HERE. Black in Rembrandt’s Time at the Rembrandt House Museum is a relevant case study for discussion among CODART members. The exhibition focused on seventeenth-century artworks featuring people of African descent as the main subject depicted with dignity and respect, and not merely as secondary figures in subordinate roles or in stereotypical ways that would later prevail. The exhibition also told the stories behind the artworks: the presence of a small community of free Black people in Rembrandt’s neighborhood in Amsterdam, how artists depicted them and who they were, and the shifting image from the second half of the seventeenth century onwards. While preparing the exhibition, the museum cooperated closely with numerous external experts, advisory panels, and guest curators, in order to include voices and expertise from outside the museum. During this focus, we will discuss both the story told in the exhibition, as well as the process of co-creation, and take the experiences from those involved as a starting point to discuss the topic further among our members.
The Rembrandt House Museum made a mini-documentary in which the viewer is taken on a tour through the exhibition. The video is available on YouTube with English subtitles.
In preparation for this CODARTfocus we have recorded a conversation between several creators of the exhibition. In this recording Richard Kofi (artist, curator, and Head of Programming of the Bijlmer Parktheater in Amsterdam) moderates a conversation with initiators and guest curators Stephanie Archangel (Junior Curator, Rijksmuseum Amsterdam) and Elmer Kolfin (Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam), and with Hester Huitema (project lead) and Epco Runia (Head of Collections) from the Rembrandt House Museum. They discuss various topics ranging from the origins of the exhibition to the responses from the public; from the role the advisory panels played in the process, to the attention to language and terminology; and from blind spots to lessons learned. The recording of the CODARTfocus is available to CODART members. Please send an email to email@example.com to receive a private link to the recording.
03:20 – The origins of the exhibition
13:18 – Co-creation and the exhibition narrative
42:03 – Language and terminology
54:03 – Black Lives Matter
1:03:53 – Lessons learned
CODARTfocus on 2 December
The pre-recorded conversation is the starting point for the CODARTfocus on 2 December. During this interactive Zoom meeting, we look forward to continuing the conversation among CODART members. The session will be moderated by Heather Hughes (Kemper Assistant Curator of Academic Affairs and Exhibitions, Davis Museum at Wellesley College). The makers of HERE. Black in Rembrandt’s Time will also be present to discuss their experiences and exchange thoughts with the participants. There is room for further discussion about the exhibition, and we will pay particular attention to the experience of collaborating with advisory panels, of which Mark Ponte (City Archives Amsterdam) and Raul Balai (artist and co-designer of the exhibition) will be present. Additionally, we aim to broaden the conversation and speak more generally about current inclusive practices in the museum sector. What are your experiences with diversity and inclusion in relation to your collection, institution and exhibition projects? Is the model of co-creation, as implemented by the Rembrandt House Museum, appropriate for other museums as well? Why or why not? How do other museums see their present and future roles in these social debates?