Black Art: A Discussion
... RA: I’m very surprised to hear you say that. The exhibition you have curated is still around and is travelling. You must be optimistic, otherwise you would not have been involved in this exhibition.
EC: There are still Black artists whose work I admire, and in whose work I have hope. The only way I could have shown their work was in a large context with other artists. The fact that their work might not otherwise have been shown, is not very encouraging. And it’s difficult to say what the future is, because the situation is no longer in our hands. Yesterday you said that Black art was very popular. I don’t think that’s the case…
RA: I’m sorry to interrupt you, Eddie, but it was you who said that black art was fashionable.
EC: No, no. I was only talking in reference to Black artists; Black art as a politicised form of expression is very unpopular amongst Black artists.
RA: I would agree with you there, given the nasty reactions we had in the past…
EC: But I’m not talking about its being unpopular among the white audience or critics. I’m not really bothered by them. I’m only concerned with Black practitioners themselves. There are very few artists who would seriously accept the political framework of Black art and would also accept this framework for their own practice.
RA: You mean there is a lack of political commitment.
EC: Yes. There is a lot of ambition for getting into the galleries, but there is no political commitment as far as the work is concerned.
RA: But, Eddie, we must recognise that art is a profession. It has an economic base. The only outlet available to the artist, whether you are white or black, is through the established structures. If you say that black art is something which is meant for and addresses only the black community, while the black community has no economic power to support its artists, then the black artist is lost...
The above extracts are from a conversation between Rasheed Araeen and Eddie Chambers, “Black Art: A Discussion”, first published in Third Text, Number 5, Winter 1988/89: 50-77 and reproduced in Black British Culture & Society: A Text Reader, edited by Kwesi Owusu, Routledge, 1999: 239-254