Entangled Pasts, 1768–now

★★☆☆☆

On until 28 April 2024

Menacing calls to decolonise art history loom large over the museum. But contrary to its stated ideological mission, the project is beneficial to everyone involved. At £20 per indulgence, this show absolves The Royal Academy of its original sin. An optional £2 donation excuses the visitor too.

But this more smoke and mirrors than a pious endeavour. One gallery parades John Singleton Copley – an academician painter forgettable save for his slave holdings – as the gift shop brand scapegoat. Another confusingly notes that the 1807 act of abolition had both supporters and opponents among artists. Later, US and British histories and art worlds mix with little discipline, laying the ground for claims that are as faddish as they are hyperbolic. A noxious mix of evidence and emotion dismisses any niggling doubts.

The show’s decisive weakness, however, is its aesthetic reliance to lift guilty souls from the gutter of history on a handful of already familiar works. The fragments of Himid, Locke, Walker, and Shonibare which frame the narrative have done so much ‘work’ in another parish that they are no witness to the Academy’s half-sincere contrition. Who could have thought that these mantras would turn into rote? 


notes and notices are short and curt exhibition reviews. Read more:

Tyler Eash, All the World’s Horses at Nicoletti ★★☆☆☆

Tyler Eash

All the World's Horses

★★☆☆☆

The artist must choose which ground is best ceded.

Nicola Turner, Edward Bekkerman at Shtager&Shch ★★☆☆☆

Nicola Turner, Edward Bekkerman

The Song of Psyche: Corners of a Soul's Otherworlds

★★☆☆☆

Who opens a space in Fitzrovia only to fill it with such drivel?

Pauline Boty at Gazelli Art House ★★★★☆

Pauline Boty

A Portrait

★★★★☆

This exhibition mixes the woman and her legend, but without the air of mystery she enjoyed during her lifetime.

Marina Xenofontos, Public Domain at Camden Art Centre ★★★☆☆

Marina Xenofontos

Public Domain

★★★☆☆

There’s an unfortunate ‘emerging artist’ vibe to this handful of readymade sculptures.

Gray Wielebinski, The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low at ICA ★☆☆☆☆

Gray Wielebinski

The Red Sun is High, the Blue Low

★☆☆☆☆

I knew that it was possible to understand art and life less after seeing an exhibition. I didn’t, however, imagine that experiencing Wielebinski’s work twice would only compound such damage.

Jan Gatewood, Group Relations at Rose Easton ★☆☆☆☆

Jan Gatewood

Group Relations

★☆☆☆☆

Such thin metaphors could only have come from LA.

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