National Gallery renames Degas’s Russian dancers as Ukrainian dancers | national gallery
The National Gallery has changed the title of Edgar Degas’ drawing, Russian Dancers, to Ukrainian Dancers,” prompting other cultural institutions to rethink “lazy” interpretations or mislabeling of Ukrainian art and heritage.
After appeals from Ukrainians on social media, the gallery said it had changed the title of the early 20th-century French impressionist’s work, which is currently not on display. It is a pastel depicting troupes of dancers, which the artist was fascinated to see performing in Paris late in his life.
The yellow and blue of Ukraine’s national colors can be seen in what appear to be hair ribbons worn by the dancers and in the garlands they wear.
A spokesperson for the National Gallery said: “The title of this painting has been the subject of discussion for many years and is covered in the scholarly literature; However, there has been increased attention to this topic over the past month due to the current situation, so we felt it was an appropriate time to update the title of the table to better reflect the topic of the picture.
A few weeks ago, a member of the gallery’s educational department raised the issue, while a Ukrainian living in London also used instagram do this.
Among those who welcomed the move of the National Gallery was Mariia Kashchenko, Ukrainian-born founder and director of artistic unitwhich presents emerging artists, including 21 Ukrainian artists at the moment.
“I understand that the term Russian art has become a simple umbrella term which was useful, but it’s really important now to get it right. As a Ukrainian, in the past I would have encountered times when I was called Russian or when Ukrainian heritage was portrayed as Russian,” she said.
Critics of British cultural institutions also came from Olesya Khromeychuk, director of the Ukrainian Institute in London, who wrote last month in the German magazine Der Spiegel: “Every visit to a gallery or museum in London with exhibits of USSR art or film reveals a deliberate or simply lazy misinterpretation of the region as an endless Russia; just as the current President of the Russian Federation would like to see.
“The curators have no problem presenting Jewish, Belarusian or Ukrainian art and artists as Russian. On rare occasions when a Ukrainian is not presented as Russian, he may be presented as “born in Ukraine”, as was the case of director Oleksandr Dovzhenko, in one of the main exhibitions of revolutionary art in London . ”
The National Gallery told the Guardian that research is continuing into the paintings in its collection and that information about its works is updated as and when new information comes to light.
A spokesperson for the National Portrait Gallery said the gallery had been closed as it underwent a major makeover, but as part of its Project Inspire People examined the interpretation of each work that will be exhibited in time for its reopening next year.
Referring to action taken regarding Degas’ work, the spokesperson added: “We are also very open to receiving public comment on specific works and regularly respond to comments shared by our audience, including those made on social networks”.