February 10, 2022

Art Institute of Chicago Redefines Its Purpose as Antiracist

This storied museum has canceled Western culture in lieu of woke maxims.

There is no victory when institutions begin to play the identity politics roulette, only desolation. This taint has long infected the hallowed halls of academia but now is also infecting our art museums. This is troubling indeed because art museums like the Art Institute of Chicago are meant to be a treasury of art that has influenced the world.

Art is the cultural story of civilization. The Art Institute is known for its vast collection of a variety of art from all around the world. Its original purpose was to share the story of art as it pertains to its importance in history. It was a place for budding art lovers and school children like I once was to experience the beauty, glory, and imaginative history as told by artist of old and new.

But the Art Institute of Chicago has slowly been falling down this slippery slope of identity ideology characteristic of Critical Race Theory (CRT). It made headlines last year for firing its volunteer docents because they were white. In fact, 82% of the docents were white, but that didn’t matter in the end.

Now the museum has changed its mission statement to reflect a new antiracist worldview. This is a devastating blow for the keepers of history and art. This is because antiracism is based on CRT, a Marxist ideology that pits race against race in an attempt to tear down the system that CRT advocates deem “racist.” They bring about this racial divide by assigning victims and oppressors based on identity, race, and gender.

The Chicago Art Institute has decided that it is an oppressor for teaching about Western art and culture and “centering” whiteness as the basis for great art. Heather Mac Donald, writing for City journal, points out the absurdity of this position. She states: “By that logic [of declaring the Art Institute the oppressor], every African work in the Institute’s collection must also be condemned for the genocidal tribal warfare practiced by African cultures and for the corruption that continues to depress Africa’s economic development.”

How can the Art Institute honestly teach about and curate art with this worldview? Any piece it displays is a symbol of either white-centeredness or colonial conquest. There is no winning and no edification under this thought trap, only degradation and despair. It’s also painfully shortsighted. If the great work of art housed in its halls are only as good or important as defined by the artist’s identity, no art will be good enough in the end. It’s hardly an endorsement for people to come to the museum. “The self-abasement common in the post–George Floyd era is actually a form of self-aggrandizement,” Mac Donald also points out. “Individuals and institutions blame themselves for inequalities for which they have no responsibility in order to claim a current impact that they do not possess.”

This antiracist ideology has come to a head under the watchful eye of the current Art Institute director, James Rondeau. It was he who pushed for antiracism teachings for all of his staff (including the docents before they were fired). It was he who hired Veronica Stein, the author of the firing of the docents.

James Rondeau’s attitude is the biggest tell that this is all one big lame virtue signal. It can be summed up in a statement that he made to a well-meaning donor who wanted to make un-exhibited art available for those in poorer communities across the U.S.. His told the donor: “I’m not sure poor rural communities in America need Toulouse-Lautrec. I’m not sure that that’s what they’re asking for. But this kind of art for the people, like, eat your Shakespeare, look at beautiful paintings, you will be ennobled, not so much. I don’t, you know, I don’t think that that methodology is sufficiently sophisticated even though we’re seeing it still operable.”

In Rondeau’s view, those poor communities are too stupid and ignorant to appreciate fine art. In his opinion, it’s pearls before swine. This limiting and racist perspective is depriving a generation that might have otherwise been inspired and influenced by these great artists. What an utter nincompoop. His attitude is a juxtaposition of elitist snobbery and self-hate.

It is difficult to put into words the devastation that this dismantling of Western culture by the Art Institute signifies. It is supposed to be the preserver of art, as it tells the story of the world through images. Imposing an “antiracist” worldview is not only disingenuous but destructive. It minimizes the ideas of these creators to the color of their skin. It is an erasure of beauty, history, and a blatant deprivation of joy and pleasure for art lovers of all races and creeds.

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