19 November 2020

Curating and Collecting Antiracism?

CONVERSATION | Thursday 19 Nov | 17:00 - 19:00 CET | Online

How might we reimagine practices of curation in the service of anti-racism? Or, said differently, what does anti-racist curation look like? In this, the fourth event in our series of conversations A Future where Racism has no Place - What can Museums Do, we want to think through how to be attentive. Bringing together activists, curators, cultural workers and academics whose work exemplifies such practices of anti-racist work, we want to explore traditions of anti-racist curation and collecting.

For this conversation we have invited Antonia Alampi, Paul Goodwin and Ming Tiampo. They will engage in a conversation with Amal Alhaag, Wayne Modest and Priya Swamy.

It is unquestionable that the work of curation, especially, but not limited to ethnographic museums, has been complicit in the sustenance of  race-thinking, of ideologies and prejudices that uphold systemic injustices based on race within our societies. Also true, however, is the existence of a  long tradition of curatorial practices from both in - and outside museums that has been critical of museums’ long and complex relationship with race and racism, while offering alternatives for how museum can curate, collect and exhibit in ways that redress racism’s ongoing effects. While acknowledging this history of attempts to undo race(ism) numerous activists outside the museum have demanded that we not give in to easy celebration of what has already been done, but that we sharpen our attentiveness to the very ways that race(ism) may be entangled with the everyday practices that characterise our work as museums, practices such as curation and collecting.

image: This portrait of Maharaja Sardar Singh was probably made in Jodhpur around 1900. Born in 1880, Sardar succeeded his father Jaswant Singh in 1895, at the age of 15, as Maharaja of Jodhpur. In the photo, Sardar is wearing the court dress and precious jewelry that pertains to his position as Maharaja. The turban alone is a badge of honor and a status symbol. More striking, however, is the ornament, the 'shast', that has been applied to it. It consists of a painted portrait of Sadar's father, set entirely in gold and trimmed with pearls. This tradition dates back to the Mughal period and only the most eminent were granted the privilege of wearing the portrait of the Maharaja. By wearing this 'shast' Sadar expresses, very consciously, both his strong sense of belonging to - and respect for - the memory of Jaswant Singh. His father died in 1895. But not only through the miniature portrait is Sardar connected with his father. The necklaces of rows of pearls and (uncut) diamonds, together called 'kantho', were also worn by Jaswant Singh on important occasions and recorded on the painted portraits known of him. The portrait thus contains many clues through which the person portrayed expresses his connection with the royal line of Jodhpur. Maharaja Sardar Singh ruled until his death in 1911 after which the regalia passed to his first son, Sumer Singh. We add this image to this conversation to discuss the attempts to curate differently and to question how we care for images and objects that are embedded in the pasts and structures that we aim to address through the attempts of curating and collecting differently.


  1. What are the traditions of institutional critique that have taken race and racism as their primary focus and what can we learn from such a tradition in the present?
  2. If race thinking is embedded in our collections and collecting practices, what strategies must we adopt, not simply as redressive acts, but to fashion non-racial futures?
  3. How can curators, educators and collection experts and staff work towards anti-racist futures in the museum and in society at large?
  4. How might anti-racist collection or curatorial work become central to institutional practice? What does such practices look like? 
  5. How might we negotiate the line between a curatorial practice that confronts racism and the re-staging of racial violence to those who are familiar with what is at stake?

Antonia Alampi

Antonia Alampi is currently the director of Spore Initiative in Berlin. Her professional practice as a cultural organizer, curator, and director, has been defined by working collaboratively with artists and professionals from different fields and backgrounds, and within rather small-scale socially sensitive, politically engaged and structurally vulnerable organizations. She has been the artistic co-director of SAVVY Contemporary from 2016 to 2020, in the curatorial team of sonsbeek20-24, curator of Extra-City Kunsthal from 2017 to 2019, and curator of Beirut in Cairo from 2012 to 2015, among other things that go further back in time. She co-founded projects with strong positions, erratic lives and little to no funding, such as Future Climates (with iLiana Fokianaki), or Toxic Commons (with Caroline Ektander and Simone Müller, a.o.). Within and outside of institutions she has curated or been involved in many types of cultural and artistic projects, researches, movements, publications and actions pursuing social, political and environmental justice and supporting nonconformist forms of reading and interpreting the earth and its lives that have often been historically repressed or erased. She occasionally teaches, writes essays, edits books and talks in public. She is the mother of a girl and lives in Berlin. 


Paul Goodwin

Paul Goodwin is a curator, researcher, urbanist and educator based in London. His multidisciplinary research and curatorial practice revolves around exploring the creative potential of both cities and artistic production as sites of aesthetic, socio-cultural and political intervention. Within the urban field this has been framed around understanding how the Black and migrant presence in cities in the West have shaped and in turn been shaped by formations of urban aesthetic and socio-cultural modernity. Within the field of contemporary art the focus has been on the dynamics of how processes of migration, race, globalisation and transnationalism are yielding new forms of radical and transformative artistic and curatorial practices worldwide. He is the Co-Lead Investigator (with Prof Ming Tiampo) of the Worlding Public Cultures international research project as well as co-founder of the Transnational and Transcultural Arts and Culture Exchange network (TRACE)Goodwin’s current and future curatorial projects include: W.E.B. DuBois: Charting Black Lives (House of Illustration, London, UK, 2019), We Will Walk: Art and Resistance from the American South (Turner Contemporary, Margate, UK, 2020) and Untitled: Art on the Conditions of Our Time, Chapter 2 (touring, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge, UK, Feb. 2021). Goodwin teaches on the MA Fine Art programme at Chelsea College of Arts and is director of TrAIN Research Centre (Transnational Art Identity and Nation) at University of the Arts London. 


Priya Swamy

Dr. Priya Swamy is the curator of Globalisation and South Asia at the National Museum of World Cultures. Priya holds a BA in World Religions from McGill University (Canada) and an MPhil and PhD in Area Studies from Leiden University. Her research explores the ways in which people in and from Indian diasporas innovate and rearticulate their religious and political beliefs across historical moments and social contexts. Her work has focused particularly on the movement of Indian labour diasporas into Suriname from India, but also from Suriname into the Netherlands. Focusing on the everyday narratives of community stakeholders, Priya is committed to a critical, multidisciplinary, and globally-focused approach to studies of Hindu identity, Indian material culture, and migration. At the museum, she looks to the multivocality of objects to demonstrate to a wide audience that material culture belongs to many places at many different times.


Ming Tiampo

Ming Tiampo is Professor of Art History, and co-director of the Centre for Transnational Cultural Analysis at Carleton University. She is interested in transcultural models and histories that provide new structures for understanding and reconfiguring the global. She has published on Japanese modernism, global modernisms, and diaspora. Tiampo’s book Gutai: Decentering Modernism (University of Chicago Press, 2011) received an honorable mention for the Robert Motherwell book award. In 2013, she was co-curator of the AICA award-winning Gutai: Splendid Playground at the Guggenheim Museum in NY. Tiampo is currently working on three publication projects, Transnational Cities, which theorizes the scale of the urban as a mode of reimagining transcultural intersections and the historical conditions of global modernism; Intersecting Modernisms, a collaborative sourcebook on global modernisms; and Jin-me Yoon, an Art Canada Institute book on the diasporic Korean-Canadian artist. Tiampo is an associate member at ICI Berlin; a member of the Hyundai Tate Research Centre: Transnational Advisory Board; a fellow at the Paul Mellon Centre for British Art on the London, Asia project and co-convenor of the conference London, Asia, Art, Worlds; a founding member of TrACE, the Transnational and Transcultural Arts and Culture Exchange network, and co-lead on its Worlding Public Cultures project.


How to join

We will host this event online.

To join via ZOOM WEBINAR, please register in advance for this webinar.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

Please note that we will only open the Q&A on Zoom. Based on time, we cannot promise to address all of the questions, but we shall do our best.