Travel & See: Black Diaspora Art Practices since the 1980s
Kobena Mercer is Professor of History of Art and African American Studies at Yale University. He is author of Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies, editor of Cosmopolitan Modernisms, among other titles, and an inaugural recipient of the 2006 Clark Prize for Excellence in Arts Writing.
Ethnicity and Internationality: New British Art and Diaspora-Based Blackness
This chapter critically surveys the mid-1990s moment in which the populist irreverence of the Young British Artist phenomenon attracted attention, especially through the 1997 Sensation exhibition, even though it was not widely understood that the self-parodying Britishness put on display was a defensively localist reaction to pressures and uncertainties introduced by a new phase of globalization. Giving close attention to the predicaments faced by black artists in such a context, including Yinka Shonibare, Steve McQueen, and Chris Ofili, as well as organizational initiatives such as the Institute for International Visual Arts, it is argued that the cultural history of London’s art world has always provided a space of vernacular cosmopolitanism, hosting the Caribbean Artists Movement of the 1960s, for instance, which calls for archival research that takes into account the multiple modernisms that have flourished in postwar Britain.