Art Fund debate: Who do they think we are?

  • 20 April 2007

To celebrate Museums and Galleries Month The Art Fund and the British Museum are joining forces to stage a debate exploring the issues surrounding contemporary culture. It will take place at the British Museum on 10th May.

Chaired by Bonnie Greer, a distinguished panel of writers, artists and cultural commentators will ask how today’s creatives help to define us. In an era when artists seem increasingly obsessed with themselves, do they still have something to say about society as a whole? Our society is increasingly diverse, and yet only a small number of ethnic minority artists have a high profile – how can the arts be a mirror for minority groups?

The Panellists:

Ralph Rugoff is Director of the Hayward Gallery. As a curator Ralph has organized numerous exhibitions over the past sixteen years, as well as contributing to books on artists such as Mike Kelley, David Hammons, Paul McCarthy and Roni Horn. He is also the author of Circus Americanus (Verso, 1995), a book of essays on popular visual culture. Ralph is also a committee member of The Art Fund’s new £5 million international contemporary art scheme, Art Fund International.

Gautam Malkani is a journalist and author of best-selling novel Londonstani. Since studying Social and Political Sciences at Cambridge University Gautam has worked at the Financial Times, where he currently edits the Creative Business section. His debut novel Londonstani, which portrays the lives of young Muslim, Sikh, and Hindu men in Hounslow, West London, has received widespread critical acclaim.

Dr Deborah Swallow is Director of the Courtauld Institute of Art. Dr Swallow moved to the Courtauld from the Victoria & Albert Museum where she was Keeper of the Asian Department and Director of Collections. She has been a Trustee of The Art Fund since 2006.

Munira Mirza is a writer and researcher on issues related to cultural policy and identity. Earlier this year she edited the book Culture Vultures: Is UK arts policy damaging the arts? and in 2005 she presented the BBC Radio 4 documentary series, ‘The Business of Race’. She is a founding member of the Manifesto Club, a new organisation that aims to champion humanist politics in the 21st century.

Yinka Shonibare is an artist and was born in England, raised in Nigeria, and currently lives and works in London. Shonibare considers himself ‘truly bi-cultural’ and strives to open up debate about the social, cultural and political issues that shape our histories and construct identity. His works challenge assumptions about representation by playfully blurring the boundaries between stereotypical Western ideas about ‘high’ art and traditional categorisations of ‘African art.’

Event Details:

Stevenson Lecture Theatre, British Museum, Great Russell Street, London W1
Thursday 10 May, 6.30pm
Tickets £5, Art Fund members and concessions £3
To book tickets call the Box Office on 020 7323 8181 or email

Nearest tube: Tottenham Court Road, Holborn or Russell Square

Museums and Galleries Month is a UK-wide celebration of museums and galleries in May. Click here for details of other events

Image courtesy of Studio Azzurro