Can Art Help Champion Racial & Gender Equality?

Artistic practice can prompt social change and cultural reflection. With movements such as #BlackLivesMatter and recent revelations on the Gender Pay Gap, topics of female and racial empowerment simply cannot be ignored. These issues have been present for far too long and must be addressed across all sectors, but art can, and should, be the leader.

Equality, in terms of race and gender has always been at the forefront of my philanthropic activities. As the Founder of the Stellar International Art Foundation, my overarching goal is to engender a greater tolerance of beliefs and cultures around the world and to champion underprivileged or overlooked sectors of society. In this respect, art, even though the contours of a structure or the simple play of colour on a canvas, can be invaluable. Whether we create our own art or observe the works of others in a gallery, narratives are being shared and these narratives have the power to challenge assumptions, to educate and to open up our minds to what there is beyond our own reality.

This is incredibly significant when it comes to issues of gender inequality. According to the National Museum of Women in the Arts, a staggering 78 percent of galleries in the UK represent more men than women, despite 51 percent of all UK artists being female. Within the current political landscape, women must realise their potential and identities in the work and beyond. We have seen the recent revelations of campaigns like #MeToo, bringing to light feminist issues that have been intrinsic for far too long and now it’s time to break down these barriers to equality in all aspects of life.

My own art charity, Stellar, consequently features works from individuals with diverse understandings of the world and champions artists regardless of their gender or background. The Foundation’s exclusive events also provide necessary platforms for discussions and speeches on equality and diversity, the latest of which saw world renowned Indian artist Chila Kumari Burman speak about how her own artwork has been framed by her personal family history and issues of Asian femininity.

With a political landscape in flux and movements for equality across the world, events and foundations like Stellar are invaluable not only in the art world but to wider depates on cultural acceptance and identity. By exploring topics such as racism, sexuality and poverty, art foundations can raise political issues, expose social and cultural diversities and provoke questions. Barriers are broken down, bridges are built, and we move a step closer towards embracing equality across the board.

Pablo Picasso’s Guernica with its message of protestation, for example, is an enduring illustration of how art can be used to make a political statement and to spark debate. Produced in response to the Guernica bombing, it is considered by critics to be one of the most powerful and moving anti-war paintings in history.

Good art, then, can create empathy and educate, and this can lead to change. Where art flourishes, freedom of expression flourishes too, empowering even the most vulnerable members of societies. Art can instil courage of expression to those who create, as well as those who appreciate and observe, in turn engendering greater tolerance of societies and beliefs around the globe.

Mrs Choudhrie is Founder of the Stellar International Art Foundation. The Foundation started as the private collection of the Choudhrie family now comprises over 600 works dating from the late 19th Century to the modern day. They believe passionately in the importance of private collecting as a way of encouraging and empowering multiculturalism and diversity.

IMAGE: Copyright Charles Shearn