Issue 142

Vajiko Chachkhiani: They Kept Shadows Quiet
by Kate Kolberg

“I found my drive to diversify permanent collections. They are the beating heart of the art world. If you can change the collection, you can change the public story of art,” curator Helen Molesworth has said. I used this quote in a draft of an investigative piece I worked on for over two years—a draft that is no longer my intellectual property—in which I look at a skeleton in the closet of Canada’s largest collecting institution. I examine what its presence says about the omissions that persist in the gallery’s collecting practices and policies, despite its claims of inclusion. The quote encapsulates the recent upswing of attempts to change the “story of art” that collections tell, of reconsiderations of the space allotted to overrepresented artists in order to make space for those who are still underrepresented. Over the last year and a half, collecting institutions like the Baltimore Museum of Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and most recently the Art Gallery of Ontario made headlines when they announced they would sell work by dead white men to purchase work by artists of colour and women.