One cannot ignore the lack of representation of people of colour within western art museum galleries and archives. “Old master” paintings were produced and narrated by white European men, merely showcasing the white elite and royals. Situated within their comfortable living arrangements, attesting to a prestigious life with luxurious furniture and fine clothing, it truly was a circumstance gifted to that of the privileged white class. With very few paintings depicting African figures, the occasional occurrence would paint them as servants to that of a white man possessing and desiring prestige and ornamentation. When further reproduced in textbooks, it was discovered that dark-skinned individuals were either painted over in white or were simply cropped out of portraits. Apparent through the segregation, race and class distinctions throughout art’s history and development, it becomes a clear picture that racism is institutionalized within most prestigious art establishments, effectively objectifying and dehumanizing the entirety of a subpopulation.


In this photographic installation, Rad Hourani has reversed the roles by juxtaposing black humans with paintings featuring white figures situated within a permanent collection in the gallery of a Fine Arts Museum. The depicted individuals are dressed in unisex contemporary ensembles as opposed to conventional heteronormative costumes and jewelry testifying to social status. In using the medium of photography, the opposite perspective was achieved as it once was a tool for self-empowerment and social change among the black community. Historically explained as a race being somehow immutably inferior to others, the foundations of both slavery and racism have been challenged, refuted and redirected. In further altering the concept of who is “allowed and welcome" to take part in historical fiction, fantasy, and other forms of media, art historians hold great power and responsibility in potentially opening up a world of cross-cultural perspectives and sustained discussions of racial identity in museum curations, in order to ultimately improve the current race dialogue at stake.

 

 

 

 

 

PAINTINGS OF THE PERMANENT COLLECTION OF THE MONTREAL FINE ART MUSEUM