As I read this chapter I couldn’t help but think of a scene from The West Wing. The then Vice President is running for President and he makes this lame joke about how “If you close your left eye and squint really hard and tilt your head just so it [the seal of the Vice President of the United States] reads a lot like President of the United States.” This is what I got most from this reading. There are similarities between modern art and ‘tribal’ art. However, the exhibit by MOMA in the winter of 1984-85 collected a careful selection of ‘tribal’ art that created the appearance that the abstract ‘tribal’ art that influenced modernism is the only sort. As Clifford points out this is false as some ‘tribal’ art from Western Africa has a far more realistic look.
The appearance of ‘tribal’ art in the modernist’s work is cultural appropriation, however this is unavoidable as many of the works displayed in this MOMA exhibit were created with a colonial and neo-colonial worldview. However, those at MOMA who created this exhibit continued this legacy of appropriation by not including modern art from Third World countries. Leaving out the global south made this an exhibit of ‘look at these neat artifacts we white men have taken from other cultures and only recently have decided that they are art!’.
Katelyn Kiner – Hope College – 2017