Harvard & Center for Netherlandish Art host Online Program “Art Museums and the Legacies of the Dutch Slave Trade”

Online Program “Art Museums and the Legacies of the Dutch Slave Trade: Curating Histories, Envisioning Futures”

Presented by the Center for Netherlandish Art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, the Harvard Art Museums, and Harvard University’s Department of History of Art and Architecture, this four-part program explores efforts by art museums to deploy their spaces and collections to present more complete narratives of and perspectives on slavery and its legacies.

Gerrit Schouten, Surinamese, Diorama of a Du, Dance Celebration on the Plantation (detail), 1830. Carved and painted wood with paper and other materials. Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, NG-2005-24.

PART 1: Exhibiting Slavery and Representing Black Lives
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Curators will discuss their work on groundbreaking projects in the Netherlands and the United States, namely the Rijksmuseum’s current Slavery exhibition, the Rembrandthuis Museum’s exhibition Here: Black in Rembrandt’s Time, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art’s reinstallation of its permanent collection, and the Museums Are Not Neutral initiative. They will reflect on the broader call for museums to recognize the relationship of their collections to slavery and to present-day racial injustice.

Christopher Atkins, Van Otterloo-Weatherbie Director, Center for Netherlandish Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Sarah Mallory, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

“The Rijksmuseum and Slavery”
Maria Holtrop, Curator of History, Rijksmuseum

“Black Presence in 17th-Century Western Art”
Stephanie Archangel, Junior Curator, History Department, Rijksmuseum

“Reflections on Re-envisioning LACMA’s Permanent Collection”
Diva Zumaya, Assistant Curator, European Painting and Sculpture, Los Angeles County Museum of Art

“Possibilities of Imagining Otherwise”
La Tanya S. Autry, cultural organizer, co-producer of Museums Are Not Neutral, founder of the Black Liberation Center, and independent curator

Jan Mijtens, Dutch, Portrait of Maria of Orange with Hendrik van Nassau-Zuylestein and a Black Child (detail), c. 1655. Oil on canvas. Mauritshuis, The Hague.

PART 2: De-centering/Re-centering: Forging New Museological and Historical Narratives
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This session brings together historians and art historians whose work has, on the one hand, been grounded in art museum collections and, on the other, challenged traditional museological narratives of slavery’s legacies in the Netherlands and the Americas.

Martha Tedeschi, Elizabeth and John Moors Cabot Director, Harvard Art Museums

Kéla Jackson, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

“Visualizing Slave War”
Vincent Brown, Charles Warren Professor of American History, Professor of African and African American Studies, and Founding Director of the History Design Studio, Harvard University

“Shedding Light on a Not So Hidden Past: Changing Perspectives on Slavery in the Dutch Empire”
Pepijn Brandon, Assistant Professor of Economic and Social History, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, and Senior Researcher, International Institute of Social History

“Reflections on the Black Servant in 17th-Century Dutch Art and History”
Elmer Kolfin, Assistant Professor, University of Amsterdam

“Representation | Blackness”
Claudia Swan, Mark Steinberg Weil Professor of Art History & Archaeology, Washington University in St. Louis

Jamaica Kincaid, Rosana Paulino (Photo: Celso Andrade), and Cheryl Finley (Photo: Gediyon Kifle)

PART 3: History, Memory, and Legacy: Jamaica Kincaid, Rosana Paulino, and Cheryl Finley in Conversation
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Renowned writer Jamaica Kincaid and groundbreaking visual artist Rosana Paulino will discuss their explorations of the legacies of slavery in their work. They will be joined in conversation by eminent art historian Cheryl Finley.

David J. Roxburgh, Department Chair and Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Islamic Art History, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Rachel Burke, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Jamaica Kincaid is one of the most highly acclaimed writers of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Her works include Annie John, Lucy, The Autobiography of My Mother, and Mr. Potter, as well as her classic history of Antigua, A Small Place, and the memoir My Brother. Her first book, the collection of stories At the Bottom of the River, won the Morton Dauwen Zabel Award from the American Academy and Institute of Arts and was nominated for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. Kincaid was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2004. She has received a Guggenheim Award, the Lannan Literary Award for Fiction, the Prix Femina Étranger, Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Clifton Fadiman Medal, and the Dan David Prize for Literature. She is currently Professor of African and African American Studies in Residence at Harvard University.

Rosana Paulino is a São Paulo–based artist whose work focuses on the position of Black women in Brazilian society. Her prints, drawings, sculptures, installations, and assemblages explore and express the physical and emotional violence suffered because of racism and the many legacies of slavery. Her work is represented in the collections of the Museu de Arte Moderna de São Paulo, the University of New Mexico Art Museum, and the Museu Afro Brasil, and she has participated in numerous exhibitions in Brazil as well as in France, Spain, Portugal, the Netherlands, Belgium, South Africa, and the United States. Paulino was awarded a Ford Foundation International Fellowship in 2006 and a Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Center Residency Fellowship in 2014. She holds a doctorate from the University of São Paulo.

Cheryl Finley is director of the Atlanta University Center Art History + Curatorial Studies Collective and Distinguished Visiting Professor of Art History at Spelman College. A visionary leader committed to engaging strategic partners to transform the art and culture industry, she leads an innovative undergraduate program at the world’s largest historically Black college and university (HBCU) consortium in preparing the next generation of African American museum and visual arts professionals. She is a curator, contemporary art critic, and award-winning author noted for Committed to Memory: The Art of the Slave Ship Icon (2018), the first in-depth study of the most famous image associated with the memory of slavery—a schematic engraving of a packed slave ship hold—and the art, architecture, poetry, and film it has inspired since its creation in Britain in 1788.

Calabash bowl, Surinamese, before 1831. Carved calabash rind encrusted with white clay. 66395, Johanna Funke; © Völkerkundemuseum Herrnhut, Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden.

PART 4: The Work of Objects: Interpretation within and beyond Museum Walls
To register, please complete this online form.

This session includes brief talks, followed by a roundtable discussion, by academics and museum professionals who focus on Dutch and American art and history. Speakers will discuss specific objects—ranging from the 17th to the 21st century—that have posed interpretive and museological challenges. They will also present new possibilities for considering the relationship between slavery’s past and present-day racial injustice.

Rachel Burke, Ph.D. candidate, Department of History of Art and Architecture, Harvard University

Justin Brown (panelist and moderator), Ph.D. candidate, Department of the History of Art, Yale University

Ana Lucia Araujo, Full Professor and Associate Chair, Department of History, Howard University

Makeda Best, Richard L. Menschel Curator of Photography, Harvard Art Museums

Nancy Jouwe, Chairwoman, BAK (basis voor actuele kunst) Supervisory Board, Utrecht; co-founder, Framer Framed; and co-founder, Mapping Slavery

Imara Limon, Curator, Amsterdam Museum

Adam Tessier, Barbara and Theodore Alfond Director of Interpretation, Museum of Fine Arts, Boston

Lea van der Vinde, Curator, Royal Picture Gallery Mauritshuis