Alexander Kauffman, a doctoral candidate at the University of Pennsylvania (more commonly known as “UPenn” or “Penn”), is wary of American museums and their exhibitions of European art. The reason behind his wariness is that a “surge in white supremacist violence” in America could be due to implicit white supremacist messaging in European art pieces.
In a recent article he wrote for Hyperallergic, a Brooklyn-based online art magazine, Kauffman said that although the majority of museum and art gallery attendees may not notice, European art has connections to white supremacy. He claimed that “the centering of Europe is baked into the architecture” of museums and “usually inhabit the largest and most central galleries” in museums.
He continued, “Europe’s cultural prestige is their evidence for the racial superiority of white America.” He claimed that white supremacists attend museums because these art exhibitions and displays are “where Europe’s cultural patrimony is most visibly singled out as exceptional.” Kauffman cited an online video from white supremacists, which cycled “through images of European paintings and monuments.”
He then praised art activists from the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and the Guerilla Girls, which advocate for non-European art to go on display in art museums. Kauffman, throughout the article, pushes for diversity and inclusion in museums and the displayed artwork.
Kauffman said museums have the moral obligation to counter white supremacists, “[They] must take steps within their galleries of European Art to combat white supremacist ideology.”
Kauffman is also the Andrew W. Mellon – Anne d’Harnoncourt Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His biography notes that his “research and teaching focus on the histories of modern art, cinema, and the museum.”