The louvre

What Beyoncé’s music video shot at the Louvre says about museums today

A music video created by Beyoncé Knowles and Sean Jay-Z Carter and featuring them at the famous Louvre in Paris has sparked conversations about people traditionally invited to show their work – and interact with art objects – in museums .

In an article published earlier this year in The international review of the inclusive museumtwo researchers analyzed the video of The Carters’ song APE**T and discussed how its staging at the Louvre should inspire curators, educators and museum directors to make museums more inclusive.

“When you’re a museum educator or a curator or anyone in that space, and you’re thinking about what to present and how to present, this video shows how important it is to think about curatorial as an all-encompassing experience of mind and body, not just as art placement,” said Joni Boyd Acuff, associate professor of arts administration, education, and policy at Ohio State University and co-author of the article.

“Anyone with a critical awareness of what kind of barriers black people have can feel that in this video. This video is a release; it’s Beyoncé saying, “I don’t have any barriers.” I can be in any space. I can make my own story in front of this story.’”

Specifically, the researchers recommended that museum curators and art educators:

  1. Critically consider their galleries’ narratives, keeping an eye on how black women are positioned as subjects, artists, and viewers.
  2. Encourage programs inside museums that differ from the stories that museums have traditionally told.
  3. Commit to being places where all visitors feel comfortable. This especially applies to black and brown women, say the researchers.
  4. Work with the communities around them, rather than separately from those communities.

“Museums were created for some people to feel comfortable in galleries, and if that’s how your museum works, you’re not dealing with the real world,” said Dana Carlisle Kletchka, assistant professor of art museum education at Ohio State and co. – author of the article.

“And if you’re a museum employee and you don’t consider the real implications of your job, then you’re not doing your job.”

Beyoncé’s video was released in June 2018, and almost immediately journalists and cultural critics took notice and wrote about the statement Beyoncé and Jay-Z were making.

A summary for those who have not seen the video: it begins in front of the Louvre, in the heart of Paris, where an angel crouches in the dark. The camera pulls back and shows her ripped jeans, curly hair and brown skin. Then, inside the famous museum: images of a painted ceiling, and of Beyoncé and Jay-Z, standing in front of the Mona Lisa, experiencing half-smiles on their faces, like that of the famous painting.

The rest of the video is an essay in juxtaposition, the researchers said: Dancers move in front of still art. Beyoncé, dressed in flowing white fabric, dances in front of a statue of Nike, the Greek goddess of victory. A black woman tenderly combs the hair of a black man, seated in front of the Mona Lisa. Beyoncé and a line of dancers hold hands in front of a massive painting of Napoleon’s coronation.

The dancers are all black, and the artwork almost exclusively features white subjects – and was almost exclusively created by white artists.

An exception is the Great Sphinx of Tanis, which was found in the ruins of the ancient capital of Egypt and acquired by the Louvre in 1826. The sphinx shows the body of a lion with the head of a king. In the video, Beyoncé and Jay-Z stand in front, wearing what look like royal robes.

These juxtapositions, researchers say, can help museum curators, educators and exhibition designers and others who decide how art is presented to think about the importance of bringing in artists who are not white and non-male—the two demographics that have defined the museum art world for much of history—in their galleries.

“What I hope is to remind people who work in museums that there are myriad ways to interpret what is on the walls and one of those ways is to consider where it is placed. , how it is understood and ways to bring other narratives,” Kletchka said.

“And I think any time you’re working on behalf of the public, you better be really concerned about the implications of what your work does and the stories you put out for others, because whether they’re explicit or implicit, these stories have power.

The Louvre began as a fortress for the French monarchy and initially housed the royal collection of art – not as a museum open to the public, but for friends of the king and his family to enjoy in private. Many museums and art collections started as private collections by a royal family or very wealthy people, Kletchka said, meaning that from their origins, art collections were reserved for the wealthy.

The Louvre was turned into a museum after the French Revolution – revolutionaries took it over and officially opened it to the public in 1793, a year to the day after the deposition of Louis XVI, the last king of France. At that time, France was enslaving Africans in its colonies in the Caribbean. (Slavery was abolished in France in 1848.)

The researchers point out in their paper that the Louvre accounts almost entirely excluded people who were not white.

“From the Middle Ages to the 19and century, artwork largely depicts black people as servants and secondary characters,” they wrote. “They were not considered worthy subjects for paintings, sculptures, or other types of elite cultural works.”

This video presented Beyoncé, Jay-Z and the dancers as valuable — as valuable as works of art — and researchers said it was an important lesson for people choosing and curating exhibits.

“When you walk into a museum and it matches all the other institutions that weren’t designed to support people of color in their lived experiences or in their ways of being in the world, it makes that space unwelcoming or uncomfortable for people of color – it’s like they’ve been erased,” Acuff said. “And Beyoncé’s ability to redefine or disrupt that erasure is something all museum curators can learn from.”

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