The Whole Picture by Alice Procter

“The history of British art is the history of empire and genocide, written by collectors who traded in landscapes and lives,” Alice Procter, historian of material culture, with a BA in Art History and an MA in Anthropology, both at UCL, rightly stresses on her platform.

Published by Cassell, Procter’s recent book The Whole Picture questions the art world’s inability to recognize that it has, for centuries, unconsciously or consciously, perpetuated inequalities inherent from colonialism, and appropriated works from indigenous communities around the world.

In this thoroughly-researched and documented book, the author digs on the history, nature and roots of art items from an imagined museum. She brilliantly prompts viewers to question museums histories and Western collections’ pasts. From propaganda painting the East India Company used to justify its rule in India to contemporary artists exploring imperial history in their works, the book is central to current societal questions, especially in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement.

In addition to being an eminent historian, Procter leads the Uncomfortable Art Tours at the National Gallery, National Portrait Gallery, British Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, Tate Britain and the Queen’s House (National Maritime Museum). They can be booked on her website.

Through these museum visits, she helps visitors rethink the politics of exhibitions and display in their spaces examining and discussing curator’s choice of artists, label texts to art presentations. Thrilling and highly needed in the current era.