Chika Okeke-Agulu (Professor for African and African Diaspora Art, Princeton University) in conversation with Roger M. Buergel
For better or for worse, the Western canon of art is crumbling. In recent years, the modernist legacy has been extended and rearticulated and now encompasses key artists, media and formal concerns that have grown out of India, the African continent, China and South America. This reworking of modernism is also affecting the arts from the past: bronze sculptures from Benin City can no longer be treated as ethnological artifacts but are now on par with the best works of Rodin or Michelangelo. Even if we are ready to treat artworks as fundamentally equal, we should ask ourselves if the Western notion of “art” can do justice to work that has been produced under rather peculiar circumstances and with perhaps no notion of “art” in mind? In other words, how can we draw comparisons between Persian manuscripts, Mauritanian beads, Japanese lacquerware, Peruvian textiles, German woodcuts and Swiss embroidery?
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