Art History
Jasmine Jennings

The Problem in Room 24

Racial Constructions and the Making of National Identity in the National Museum of Fine Arts of Argentina

  • Faculty Advisor

    Huey Copeland

Published On

May 2014

Originally Published

NURJ 2013-14
Honors Thesis

Introduction

Buenos Aires is often called the “Paris of Latin America” and Argentina has a reputation of being set apart from the rest of the continent as a more European country. This so-called “myth of white Argentina” has been actively perpetuated since Argentina gained independence from Spain in 1816. Other newly independent Latin American countries promoted themselves as mestizo countries, the results of mixing between European colonists and the indigenous population. Argentina from the outset, however, preferred to think of itself as a white country.[1] To bolster this claim, the ruling elite chose to ignore and actively deny the existence of the non-European sections of the population that did survive. In the Argentine art room of the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA, The National Museum of Fine Arts), Room 24, this process of denigrating non-white populations so that the myth of a white Argentina may be perpetuated is clearly visible. I will deploy a careful examination of the two art works depicting the indigenous and Afro-Argentine populations in Room 24 to expose the ways through which this identity myth came to be accepted as fact.

1. Oscar Chamosa, "Indigenous or Criollo: The Myth of White Argentina in Tucuman's Calchaqui Valley," Hispanic American Historical Review 88.1 (2008): 72.

Figure 1. Ángel Della Valle, La vuleta del malón (The Return of the Raid), 1892, Oil on Canvas, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Room 24

The National Museum of Fine Arts in Buenos Aires displays ten works of Argentine art from the nineteenth century in Room 24. The choice to have just one room dedicated to Argentine art in the National Museum of Fine Arts in the capital of the country is intriguing in and of itself, yet the choice of these specific works to represent the best of Argentine art proves even more so. Brian Durrans argues that there is often a difference in how one desires to be perceived and how one actually lives, a phenomenon that I argue is evident in Room 24.[2] The Argentine art room displays how Argentina desires to appear on a global stage – as a white country. To make such a case, it presents important works such as Sin pan y sin trabajo (Without Bread and without Work), 1893, by Ernesto de la Cárcova, El despertar de la criada (The Awakening of the Maid), 1887, by Eduardo Sivori and a work by the museum’s founder, Eduardo Schiaffino, entitled El repaso (The Rest), 1889. These works speak to the making of modern Argentina. They explore the history of the Argentine working class, the industrialization of the country, the social role of the artist, and the contemporary European trends in order to widen the variety of acceptable subjects to include the working class and the poor. By contrast, Room 24 employs the nonwhite subjects in the room as negative poles against which Argentine society is constructed. However, the very inclusion of these subjects demonstrates that Argentina is not, in fact, a white country and never has been.

Among this overture to the making of modern Argentina, two works immediately differentiate themselves from the others in the room, although in them we may also view the making of a nation state. Ángel Della Valle’s La vuelta del malón (The Return of the Raid) (fig. 1) is by far the largest painting in the room. It measures at 6 x 9.5 feet and draws the eye immediately. To the left of this painting sits La cabeza de esclavo (The Bust of a Slave), 1882, by Francisco Cafferata. Together these two works form the only representations of Argentines of non-European descent. They also form two-thirds of the general representation of non-Europeans in the museum’s permanent collection of over 688 major works and 12000 sketches and minor works, or roughly 0.0016% of the total collection. This abysmal statistic is enough to warrant an investigation of MNBA’s collection and the visual language of these works, which stand as the only depictions of nonwhite Argentines.

The Return of the Raid activates an eerily familiar role for the native peoples of Argentina. In this monumental painting, Ángel Della Valle fully adheres to the trope of the “savage native.” It depicts a band of bare-chested natives on horseback returning from a raid with the spoils of their looting held high in triumph. The central male figure holds a gilded cross high above his head. Directly behind him another man holds an additional item of religious significance: a golden thurible, an object used to burn incense in Catholic ceremonies. The greatest spoil of war, however, is a white woman. In her captor’s arms, she sits draped across the side of the horse with, her pristine white dress torn to reveal her breasts. The lightness of her skin glows, drawing our attention to her exposed and vulnerable body. Dichotomies of light and darkness repeat thrice in the work: the woman sitting atop a black horse, the native man holding the cross on a white horse, and the turbulent black of the storm clouds contrasted with the light far on the horizon. With the addition of the religious symbols, the painting depicts a moral battle. Darkness and evil are conflated with the natives’ brown skin while the woman stands for light and, thereforeconsequently, for good. In this colonization narrative, the battle between “civilization” and “barbarity” is conceptualized as to become one between good and evil. The Return of the Raid actively constructs a narrative of colonization as God’s will. Europeans are positioned as the rightful holders of God’s favor, as symbolized by the religious objects present in the work. The natives are demonized in opposing visual language. Rather than seen as protecting their territory, they are portrayed as defiling all that is good. Such a relational framework positions the colonization of what would become Argentina as both God’s will and a divine punishment for the savages. To understand the visual language employed by Della Valle in this work, I turn to a brief examination of the tradition of the “raiding savage” in Argentina.

2. Brian Durrans, “The Future of the Other: Changing Cultures of Display in Ethnographic Museums” in The Museum Time Machine: Putting Cultures on Display, ed. Robert Lumley (London: Routledge, 1988),145.

In the nineteenth century, the Mapuche Indians, of what is now Argentina and Chile, launched a series of malónes (raids) on las estancias (large farms) that were spreading across la pampa (the Argentine countryside). These raids were surprise attacks directed at the farms to obtain horses, livestock and other provisions.[3] The Mapuche’s tactics were quick and uncomplicated, allowing them to strike without notice. Such attacks were so common that the malónes came to represent the barbarity of the native ‘savage’ in nineteenth-century discourse. Esteban Echeverría, the founder of the literary and intellectual group called the Generation of ‘37, wrote an epic poem in 1837 called La cautiva (The Captive Woman) which detailed the savagery of the Mapuche. This poem exemplified Argentine nationalist ideology at the time and became the formative representation of the Mapuche Indians in the fledgling Argentine self-consciousness. The predominate ideology of the time, visible both in The Captive Woman and The Return of the Raid, is the belief that the founding of Argentina was a battle between civilization and savagery. One of the key ways to ensure the triumph of civilization was to promote European immigration to occupy the territory. The seventh president of the nation, Domingo Sarmiento, stated, “above all, we would like to remove the savages from all American social questions, as for them we feel, without being able to remedy it, an unconquerable loathing, and for us… they are no more than disgusting Indians, who we would have hanged."[4] Central to the establishment of the nation was the denigration and decimation of indigenous people in favor of white Argentines, even if that population needed to be imported. The Captive Woman is the story of a white woman who was kidnapped by savages. As women were the means through which the state would reproduce itself, any violation of white Argentine women by the “savages” was seen as a violation of the state itself. Two connections between the poem and The Return of the Raid are the work’s given title and the woman depicted in the painting. The word malón has a history implicitly tied to violent racial discourses and practices. By employing this word and its connotations in the title, Della Valle connects The Return of the Raid to a particular history during the founding of the nation. Similarly, the woman’s exposed breasts sexualize the scene and serve as a warning against inappropriate sexual conduct.

Cafferata’s Bust of a Slave (fig. 2) is similarly a negative stereotypical portrait nonwhites, this time of an Afro-Argentine man. It is unknown if Cafferata sculpted the bust after a model or if the work is purely an imaginative artistic exercise. The slave’s head is thrown back, he appears exhausted and his brows draw together in worry and agony. His face is a map of wrinkles while his mouth is slightly open to show his teeth in a painful sneer. The nostrils seem to flare, as if in this moment he is experiencing extreme physical discomfort. Finally, the shoulders are hunched forward, making the man seem as if his body is trying to escape whatever pain is plainly written on his facethe pain. The meticulous detail with which the slave is rendered divulges Cafferata’s almost photographic realism in his subject.

3. Leslie Ray, Language of the Land: The Mapuche in Argentina and Chile (Copenhagen: International Work Group for Indigenous Affairs, 2007), 66.

4. Ibid., 67-68.

Study in Europe under a great master was considered essential to an artist’s formal education. The aesthetic preference for social realism that is evident in Room 24 is verification of the great impact Italian models had on Argentine artists.[5] The Bust of a Slave was in fact created during Cafferata’s time abroad. Cafferata studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Rome under the sculptor Urbano Lucchesi, along with his fellow countryman and personal idol Lucio Correa Morales, who is known as the father of Argentine public sculpture. Morales had a strong influence on Cafferata’s subjects in his early work.[6]

In the Palermo garden in the center of Buenos Aires, La esclavitud (Slavery) (fig. 3) is one of Cafferata’s works from just a year before Bust of a Slave. Quickly we notice that the face of the man depicted in both works is identical. In contrast to Bust of a Slave, Slavery depicts the Afro-Argentine man’s full body. He sits hunched over in the nude, his wrists in shackles. His face shows the same expression as the Bust of a Slave. It seems that Cafferata has quite literally taken the head off of this early sculpture to create a bust. Such a choice to remove and isolate the head was influenced by the ethnographic typing movement that his colleague Morales participated in.

5. Marcelo Pancheco and Jon R. Snyder, "An Approach to Social Realism in Argentine Art: 1875-1945, " Journal of Decorative and Propoganda Arts 18 (1992): 132.

6. Ibid.,130.

Morales was known to take exhibitions into the interior of the country with ethnographers and anthropologists to document different ethnic types. According to Morales’ friend, the art critic Julio A. Payró, upon his death Morales had an extensive collection of photographs of the faces of indigenous peoples that he had taken on expeditions to the Chaco and the Sierra de la Ventana regions with ethnographer Juan Bautista Ambrosetti, anthropologist Florentino Ameghino, and the naturalist and explorer Francisco P. Moreno.[7] Morales’ collection of photographs of native peoples can be situated in the larger trend of photography as a means of classification.

Cafferata’s Bust of a Slave presents an interesting divergence from the paradigm of clearly differentiated lines between ethnographic and traditional portraiture. The practice of isolating the head from his previous work can be traced to the physiognomic insistence on facial and cranial difference. However, the nature of his chosen medium, a bust, complicates the matter. It seems that Bust of a Slave simultaneously generalizes and individualizes its subject. What we see here is a traditional portrait manifestation of an ethnographic type.

7. "La Cautiva India [The Captive Indian]," Department of Education and Citizenship, Government of Argentina, http://tramas.flacso.org.ar/recursos/imagenes/la-cautiva-india?volver=506.

It seems that Bust of a Slave simultaneously generalizes and individualizes its subject. What we see here is a traditional portrait manifestation of an ethnographic type. Although slavery was abolished in Argentina in 1853, Cafferata chose to create the Bust of a Slave almost thirty years, a generation, afterwards.[8] In 1882, when this sculpture was created, there were no slaves in Argentina. Cafferata chose to create an image not of ‘a man’ or ‘a man, formerly a slave’, but rather ‘a slave’. The designation of this man as simply ‘a slave’ erases all of his individuality. Such an unflattering representation is undesirable for any minority group struggling for equality but, as the only depiction of an Afro-Argentine, the work perpetuates a caricature of an entire people, enshrined in the national museum without challenge.

8. George R. Andrews, “The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires: 1800-1900,” Journal of Latin American Studies 11.1 (1979): 23.

Figure 2. Francisco Cafferata, Cabeza de esclavo (Bust of a Slave), 1882, Bronze, Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Nineteenth-century Museums and the Establishment of MNBA

Like other museums established in the nineteenth century, the MNBA was established by liberal individuals interested in “progress.” Nearly all museums opened in this time had the express mission of educating the working class. They attempted to do so by presenting a higher culture for the visitor to absorb and emulate. The National Museum of Fine Arts opened its doors in 1896. The primary collection consisted of 163 Argentine and European art works, primarily from France, Italy and Spain. Established by the decree of President José Evaristo Uriburu in 1895, MNBA’s first director was Eduardo Schiaffino, who occupied the position until 1910.[9] Schiaffino, a painter himself as well as an art critic and historian, had been the foremost proponent of the visual arts in Argentina for twenty-one years before he was appointed director in 1895. Schiaffino and his contemporaries belonged to an era known as the Generation of ‘80.[10] Rising to power in the moments of great urban expansion, the Generation of ‘80 was the ruling elites in Buenos Aires from 1880 to 1910. They modeled themselves on the Generation of ’37, the founding fathers of modern Argentine society, who had established a strong precedent of looking toward Europe and North America for models of economics, culture and politics.[11]
This era is often touted as the golden age of Argentine history. Following the precedent set by the Generation of ‘37, modernization and Europeanization during this time in the country’s history were one and the same. In that era of the Generation of ‘80 the modernization of the nation began and the ideals of the previous generation were realized. With the clear direction of the ruling class, the system of public administration was organized, the first political parties were established, and Buenos Aires was declared a federal district. It is also in this era that some 15,000 square leagues (about 178,780 square miles) of land controlled by the indigenous people were “recuperated”, grossly hastening the demise of that population. As industry soared, vast droves of European immigrants, mostly Spanish and Italian, came to Buenos Aires and a socially conscious porteño identity, a city identity as differentiated from that of rural populations, began to develop.[12] Characterized by such beliefs in themes of progress and the growth of Argentine civilization, the ideals of the Generation of ‘80 influenced artistic production and the establishment of the MNBA as well.

9. Angel M. Navarro, “Italian Drawings in Buenos Aires,” Master Drawings 39.1 (2001): 45, accessed April 22, 2013, http://www.jstor.org/stable/1554482.

10. María J Herrera, "El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes: historia, colecciones y exhibiciones; "The National Museum of Fine Arts: History, Collections and Exhibitions," in Guía; Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes [Guide to the National Museum of Fine Arts] (Buenos Aires:; Asociación de Amigos del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2008), 8.

11. Julia Rodríguez, Civilizing Argentina: Science, Medicine, and the Modern State (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 2006), 26.

12. Pancheco and Snyder, "An Approach to Social Realism,” 124.

The fundamental aesthetic of Argentine art was solidified around 1880 when Schiaffino established the Sociedad Estímulo de Bellas Artes (Society for the Stimulation of the Fine Arts) in 1876, which organized local fine art exhibitions, hosted lectures, and gave classes. Schiaffino along with Ángel Della Valle founded El Ateneo in 1893. It was there that Schiaffino began to imagine a national museum of fine arts and began to ask his friends, like Della Valle, to donate works of art towards that end.[13] Schiffano also wrote art criticism for El diario (The Diary) and La nación (The Nation), both still regarded as the premier journalistic publications of Argentina.[14] Via the cultivation of a taste for art in a time where there were previously no public museums or schools of art, Schiaffino created those institutions and strove to modernize and civilize Argentina.[15] With the creation of the MBNA, the Generation of ‘80 created a place for art in Argentina, modeled on their views of progress and growth.

13. Herrera, "El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes,” 7.

14. Pancheco and Snyder, “An Approach to Social Realism”, 126.

15. Herrera, "El Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes,” 1.

Declared by a presidential decree, the MNBA has been intimately tied to the authority of the state since its inception. It’s first dedicated building, the Argentine Pavilion, was a representation of the entire nation of Argentina to the world. Truly a temple to the muses, the current building of the MNBA adheres to traditional museum architecture in all aspects except for one conspicuous element: the color pink. Although white marble is the traditional standard for these temples of secular knowledge, the association between the color pink and important buildings is not unheard of in Argentina. La Casa Rosada, The Pink House, is the seat of the Argentine federal government. As its name suggests, just as the White House is white, the Pink House is pink. This visual association between the museum and La Casa Rosada undeniably gives the weight of national authority to MNBA and through this visual association the program of the museum becomes enmeshed with the power networks of the state itself, giving the history presented in the museum the weight of a nationally sanctioned history.[16] This relationship between the state and the museum signifies the prestige the museum has in Argentine society. The MNBA is indeed a museum that is dedicated to serving the tastes of the established class.[17] Established museums are interested in conventional, academic art and, of course, the established; they are the guardians of high culture. When the museum opened its doors in 1896, the established class was the Generation of ‘80. The works of Argentine art in Room 24 were part of the initial seed of 163 works, collected by Schiaffino and guided by the principles of his generation.

16. Durrans, “The Future of the Other,” 225.

17. Elaine H Gurian, "Oportunidades que pProporcionan las exposiciones [Opportunities Provided by Expositions]," in AA.VV., La sociedad de los artistas:historias y debates de Rosario [AA.VV., The Society of Artists: History and Debates of Rosario] (Rosario: Museo Muncipal de Bellas Artes Juan B Castagnino, 2004), 14.

It seems that Bust of a Slave simultaneously generalizes and individualizes its subject. What we see here is a traditional portrait manifestation of an ethnographic type. Although slavery was abolished in Argentina in 1853, Cafferata chose to create the Bust of a Slave almost thirty years, a generation, afterwards.[8] In 1882, when this sculpture was created, there were no slaves in Argentina. Cafferata chose to create an image not of ‘a man’ or ‘a man, formerly a slave’, but rather ‘a slave’. The designation of this man as simply ‘a slave’ erases all of his individuality. Such an unflattering representation is undesirable for any minority group struggling for equality but, as the only depiction of an Afro-Argentine, the work perpetuates a caricature of an entire people, enshrined in the national museum without challenge.

Figure 3. Francisco Cafferata, La esclavitud (Slavery), 1881, Bronze, Parque tres de Febrero, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Constructing Hierarchies and the Evolution of Room 24

In 2005 MNBA underwent a major renovation. Guided by new curatorial direction, the museum added three new rooms to permanently house displays of Pre-Columbian art, Spanish colonial art, and, in Room 24, the works of Argentine artists of the nineteenth century. Room 24 is the first permanent display of Argentine art in the museum.[18] María Florencia Galesio, María José Herrera and Valeria Keller explain that the curator sought to provide a more comprehensive panorama of Argentine Art with the remodeling of the museum.[19] They note that Room 24 was organized as a milestone in the institutionalization of the arts that began in 1876 with establishment of Schiaffino’s Society for the Stimulation of the Arts.[20] The curators seemed to understand that Room 24 would play an important role in shaping national identity for they said, “to begin developing the script for the permanent Argentine art room, the first question was what kind of collection does the MNBA have, what is its identity?" Furthermore they remarked, “public museums are the representation of the relationship between the citizen and the state as benefactor…In this sense both what is displayed in a public museum and what is not shown is significant.”[21] [22] Clearly, ideas of identity and nationhood were part of the conception of Room 24 and yet simply having an Argentine art room seemed to be the primary concern. Questions about what constitutes the Argentine identity were not considered. The lack of a permanent display of Argentine art in the National Museum of Fine Arts in the capitol of the country for over a century is simply astounding but this may be symptomatic of Argentine’s complicated self-perception as an extension of European society.

18. María Florencia Galesio, María José Herrera and Valeria Keller, “Nuevo guión curatorial y museografía de las salas de arte argentio del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (New Curatorial Guidance and Museology of the Room of Argneitne Art in the National Museum of Fine Arts)” in Exposiciones de arte argentino 1956-2006: La confluencia de historiadores, curadores e instituciones en la escritura de la historia (Expositions of Argentine Art: 1956-2006: The Confluence of Historians, Curators and Institutions in the Writing of History) (Buenos Aires: Amigos del Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, 2009), 211.

19. Ibid., 211.

20. Ibid., 215.

21. “Para comenzar a elaborar el guión de las salas permanents de arte argentino, la primera pregunta fue qué tipo de colección tiene el MNBA, ¿Cuál es su identidad?” and “Así, los museos públicos son la representación de la relación entre el ciudadano y el estado como benefactor… En este sentido tanto lo que se muestra en un museo público como lo que no se muestra, es significativo”

22. Ibid., 212.

The dichotomy of the noble, sophisticated, civilized European contrasted against a brutal and brutalized non-white, evident in Room 24, functions to construct a racial hierarchy in Argentina. The room serves to designate who is and who is not Argentine: the gaucho is Argentine, the poor but noble family is Argentine, the artist is Argentine, but most importantly the nonwhite is not. The room serves as a visual representation of how the modern Argentine state was formulated and conceptualized. To return to the remarks of Brian Durrans, the room depicts how Argentina would like to be seen and not how the country is.[23] In Room 24, Argentine identity in this room is predicated on European colonial racial hierarchies that have been appropriated and shifted to fit the purposes of the Argentine state.

23. Durrans, “The Future of the Other: Changing Cultures of Display in Ethnographic Museums,” 225.

Walter Mignolo highlights the ideological creation of racism as a key tool used by colonial powers to establish their hegemony over the local population. He argues that racism is used to justify the process of colonization, which calls for the appropriation of the land of the colonized and the exploitation of their labor. Arguing that colonizing processes, which called for the appropriation of the land of the colonized and the exploitation of their labor, required the ideological construction of racism, Walter Mignolo highlights the key to establishing hegemony that privileges one group of people (this sentence needs to be restructured). European colonists established this hegemony that classified designated otherness in order to appropriate lands and resources from those deemed less worthy than the colonists themselves.[24] After former colonies won their independence from imperialist countries, as Argentina did from Spain in 1816,[25] the racial hierarchies remained in place, now serving the “white” rather than the European.[26] Mignolo explains that:

24. Walter Mignolo, The Idea of Latin America, (Malden, MA: Blackwell Pub. 2005),. 15.

25. Goldman, Gustavo, comp,. Cultura y sSociedad aAfro-rioplatnese [Afro-Argentine Culture and Society] . (Montevideo, Uruguay: Perro Andaluz, 2008),. 25.

26. Goldman, Gustavo, comp., Cultura y sociedad afro-rioplatnese [Afro-Argentine Culture and Society] . (Montevideo, Uruguay: Perro Andaluz, 2008), 25.

27. Mignolo, The Idea of Latin America, 59.

white creole and mestizo/a elites, in South America and the Spanish Caribbean islands, after independence from Spain adopted a “Latinidad” to create their own postcolonial identity. Consequently, I am arguing here: “Latin” America is not so much a subcontinent as it is the political project of creole-mestizo/a elites. However it ended up by being a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it created the idea of a new (and the fifth) continental unit (a fifth side to the continental tetragon that had been in place in the sixteenth century). On the other hand, it lifted up the population of European descent and erased the Indian and the Afro populations."[27]

Argentine society was stratified in such racial ways: whites held the top rungs of society, their race providing them unquestioned legal superiority over nonwhites. The native population lived under separate laws that occasionally afforded them more rights than blacks. Enslaved populations decidedly occupied the humblest positions, and mulattoes and mestizos occupied a lingering space somewhere in the middle.[28] This process of carving out a place for some while simultaneously subjugating others is one that can still be seen in the National Museum of Fine Arts.

28. George R Andrews, “The Afro-Argentines of Buenos Aires,” : 1800-1900, (Madison: University of Wisconsin, 1980), 18.

The Contemporary Situation of Afro-Argentines

To enshrine one particular view of race in Argentina inside the National Museum of Fine Arts has greater implications outside of the realm of fine arts. The founding fathers of Argentina, the Generation of ‘37 and the Generation of ’80, strove to make Argentina a white country through the decimation of native populations and European immigration. Still today, Argentines prefer to think of themselves as an entirely white nation. This, however, was never the case. The portion of the population that was European-born or descendent never reached above 60% at its height in the 1920s, but the CIA World Factbook describes the Argentine population as 98% white.[29] A significant reason for this misconception is that up until recently the government has simply chosen to ignore its Afro-Argentine population. Census officers claimed not to include a question on race on the census of 1895 because they believed that the majority of the participants would identify as white. They added, “the racial question, so noticeable in the United States, does not exist in Argentina, where it will not take much time for the population to become completely unified, creating a new and beautiful white race produced by the contact among all the European nations, made fruitful in the South American soil.”[30] With the sharp decline of the Afro-Argentine population from 1838 to 1887, it seemed the predictions of the census officers were warranted and, until 2010, the census did not include Afro-Argentine as a category. In such a climate where the very existence of a people is ignored, representation and visibility is key in shaping views.

The MNBA can take one concrete step in overturning these hierarchies by first acknowledging the complicated history of Afro-Argentines and the indigenous population in relation to the state in Room 24. The Bust of a Slave and Return of the Raid are accompanied only by their descriptive labels – no history of these two populations is given at all. Providing historical data would allow visitors to start questioning the role of the works themselves. In the case of Bust of a Slave, simply providing the date of the abolishment of slavery would spark visitors to ask why this bust of a slave was created thirty years later. Room 24 could similarly benefit from an intervention from interested parties and stakeholders. Activities that actively involve visitors to re-imagine the narrative of the museum can prove vital to disrupting the potential damage the that the MNBA causes caused with its unflattering, stereotypical representations of racial minorities. These activities cause fractures in the perceived impenetrable, polished finish of national museums. Once visitors have a way to impact and influence exhibitions, the exhibition and the museums at large becomes a project of individuals nand not the statethe state. This allows space for even bigger questions to be asked, such as “What is a nation?”, “Who determines what is fine art?” and “How and why am I being represented?” Could this last sentence be restructured to eliminate quotations?

29. Chamosa, "Indigenous or Criollo," 77.

30. Ibid., 77-78.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jasmine Jennings