Some of the key ideas emerging through artists’ works in the ‘21st Century’ exhibition include the rethinking of history in terms of a multitude of aesthetic genealogies; the changing experiences and understandings of geography at local, regional and global levels; and the highlighting of interrelatedness and mutual responsibility in regard to social and environmental issues. Many of these concerns relate to how humans share the earth with each other and with other species, and how they understand their place in history and ecology.
Artists have become increasingly aware of the complex interweaving of cultural histories in the 21st century. The geographic spread of the sites of contemporary art, and the great variety of people who participate in it, has changed how histories are told and contexts are understood. This huge expansion in the networks of communication and distribution of art is fundamental to an emergent nuanced understanding of historical, ecological and geographical interrelationships.
Artists Kara Walker, Monir Shahroudy Farmanfarmaian, Isaac Julien, Yvonne Koolmatrie, Almagul Menlibayeva and Yinka Shonibare, mbe, all engage with long-term perspectives on cultural formations and contacts across historically contingent borders. Notions of inclusion and exclusion are fundamental to these questions of geography and history and to many current art strategies, as seen notably in The Book of Migration 2009 by decolonizing.ps. The works by Yayoi Kusama and William Kentridge presented in counterpoint here reflect on relationships between individuals; the collectivity and the realm of aesthetics; and how art may chart a course between isolation, creative activity, and a sense of infinite connection.