Black Artists & Modernism (BAM for short) is a three-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as a collaboration between University of the Arts London and Middlesex University.
How do artists of African and Asian descent in Britain feature in the story of twentieth century art?
There is an implied oversight that has been highlighted in Kobena Mercer’s essay ‘Iconography after Identity’ (2005), where he suggests that an art historical amnesia prevails in relation to Black-British art; of forgetting the artistic object in favour of discussions about ethnicity and identity politics. The result of this focus, Mercer argues, inevitably deflects attention away from the work of art.
BAM will address the understated connections and areas of contention between Black-British artists’ practice and the work of art’s relationship to Modernism through close readings of works of art, artist dossiers, interviews, study days, public symposia and a database of works of art in public collections across the UK.
Esteemed colleague, art historian Courtney J Martin (Assistant Professor, History of Art and Architecture, Brown University), has commented:
“For several centuries Britain has introduced some of the most important art and artists to the world. Despite this rich history, the art history of the nation’s own black artists (a term that exceeds the limitations of race to encompass political and cultural solidarity) remains under-recognised nationally and internationally. The Black Artists and Modernism project promises to correct these various omissions by sharply focusing on the art that was produced within its complex spaces of artistic, cultural, historic, political and social context. The specific delineation of modernism and black artists is an astute path from which extensive research will yield new exhibitions, scholarly and popular texts, and, perhaps, most importantly, a cohort of learned practitioners for the field of art. BAM will re-write British art history and set the contemporary record straight for a generation to come.”