Are black people underrepresented in Art?

This is my Unit 1 Part D, Arts issue for Gold Award.

Are black people underrepresented in Art?

I have chosen to look at the arts issue of ‘is black art underrepresented in the art world’. I chose this issue as I feel quite strongly about this topic, and feel that the way that black people have been perceived throughout time has had a negative impact on the way that we view black art to day, despite the fact that black people have had a large influence on the art world. As a result I believe that we should educate ourselves of the history of other cultures' art and that we should try and give black artists, throughout time, more recognition for their work and their struggles.

History has dictated the type of artists and art that should be seen as acceptable, and unfortunately for black people this has meant that a lot of their art has been pushed to the side, as racism has meant that people have not taken the time to appreciate black art. As a black artist myself I find this very upsetting, as it can be inspiring to see people like you doing well in a subject that you are passionate about, but the only people we learn about in school and associate with art are white. I think that this is a massive issue in the art community as it means that we can not learn and be inspired by black art, and I feel that the lack of ethnical diversity within art is promoting unconscious biases about who is expected to do art, which is unfair to artists of colour. 

An example of an early black artist is Edward Mitchell Bannister, he was born in the early 1800s and was inspired to become an artist when he read an article in the new york herald that said, ‘the negro seems to have an appreciation for art while being manifeslty unable to produce it’. He went on to create many famous paintings, one of which even won first prize at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition in 1876, as well as going on to become the first african american to receive a national award for his art. Banister was an influential artist that overcame obstacles and paved a way for many other artists, yet no one really knows him due to the colour of his skin. Surely a man who did so much should be known for his work and his achievements.

 Studies have found that only 1% of all art in major art museums and galleries were created by black people and in 2019 only 6% of major art influencers were black. This is evidence of how white art is promoted and black art is pushed to the side. I think that this is a negative within the art community, as the lack of diversity in the art world means that art will not improve, as each culture has different ways of expressing themselves and different ways of painting, which can be learnt from and used to improve modern day art.

However many art advocates recognise this lack of diversity in museums and in art , so diversity schemes have been put in place to promote black artists and to create new opportunities for them, such as the Band gallery in Toronto and the guest project in london. They provide services such as studio spaces and grants, With the hopes of encouraging black people to create art and share their art.

 As well as this black artists have started to become recognised in famous art institutions, such as Kara Walker whose sculpture, the Fons Americanus, is being presented in the Tate. This shows that black artists are starting to become more prominent within art.

However, this does not mean that black art and artists will be recognised and represented fully in places such as museums and galleries, as this is something that we all have to take part in and be aware of for black artists to become recognised. 

To conclude the statistics clearly show that black art is underrepresented in the art world and black artists are not fully recognised, which has caused a lack of cultural diversity in the education of art and in art itself. despite the efforts to promote black art. Black art needs to be talked about more and shared if the artists are going to get the recognition they deserve. So what are we going to do to help?

Header Image Credit: the colour line

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Amber Flora

Amber Flora

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