Inclusive Object Toolkit - SANDBOX

Most art museums display their permanent collections chronologically and in national groupings. The course of art runs from Egyptian art to Greek and Roman art only to be sidelined by medieval art. Western art returns to its proper course first in Renaissance Italy, spreading north from Tuscany and Umbria. Italian art remains significant in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries before losing its centrality after the death of artist Tiepolo. Meanwhile Spanish art responds to Italian art, reaching an apogee with artist Francisco Goya (d. 1828).  Northern European art follows a parallel trajectory, with foundations in Flanders and Germany in the fifteenth century, mature stages in Belgium and Holland (artists: Rubens, Van Dyck, Rembrandt, Vermeer). France and Great Britain fight over artistic dominance in the eighteenth century, but France wins the nineteenth century (artists: Courbet, Manet, the Impressionists). The United States becomes the center of the art world after 1945. Contemporary art is a more global phenomenon. 

Such a narrative is familiar and feels normal. But it obviously leaves little room for putting art produced outside of Europe at the center of the story. It also hides the selectiveness within this European trajectory - can you name a nineteenth century Italian artist? A fifteenth century French one? Were there no impressionists in Germany?

This canonical narrative is also two hundred years old. It reflects ideas that were in flux in the eighteenth century and that solidified as best practices in the nineteenth century.  

Art Museum Narratives