20 December, 2005
"There is a striking difference between the ethnic background of museum and gallery curators and that of a multi-cultural capital [like London] where people of color make up thirty percent of the population," notes Roche.
Culture Minister David Lammy recently denounced "the control of the white Establishment on British artistic life"—an assessment confirmed by Le Monde's survey.
"Six percent of curators belong to ethnic minorities," writes Roche. "There are none at the National Gallery, Portrait Gallery or Tate Modern. None at the ICA, Serpentine and Barbican.
There are ten from the 230 at the British Museum, but they are all working in the departments dedicated to primitive art, as is also the case at the V&A (eight from ninety-five)."
While race is often thematized in exhibitions, the racial identity of curators has generally escaped notice, if not critique. After race, gender also seems to pose a barrier, albeit of another type.
"Although sixty-five percent of curators are women," notes Roche, "only two women direct top [London] institutions: Julia Peyton Jones at the Serpentine and Iwona Blazwick at Whitechapel.
"The world of museums is still very traditional," Nigel Barley, the former director of the British Museum, told Le Monde. "I would be surprised if, in ten years, the director of the Tate is not a white man from the upper class."
Le Monde's Marc Roche takes a look at "Inspire," a new program designed by the Arts Council of England to increase the number of visible minorities holding curatorial and management positions at British museums and galleries.
"There's a gap between the large number of artists of color and their weak representation at the head of museums and galleries," says Inspire's director Niui Ratnam. "Right now, the candidates for management jobs in national museums and galleries all seem to have come from the same mould."