Musée du Quai Branly Blog Post

One opinion of primitivism comes from Charles Ratton who collected primitive works of art. However, instead of using the images as a tool for inferiority, he aimed to fetishize the primitive way of life.

“He realised that these arts that we inaccurately term ‘primitive’ obey the same laws and are deserving of the same esteem as the classical arts and those of Asia, the latter being known and appreciated themselves for scarcely forty years. He decided to devote himself entirely to them.” —Charles Ratton about himself. (Art Daily). He attempted to grant further agency to primitive work.

However, when I visited the Musée du Quai Branly and the Ratton exhibit, I was very shocked. I did not read the collection as a way of granting agency to a section of art. Instead, I felt as though it was overtly the racial standard of beauty. For instance, the main advertisement for the exhibit had a nude woman with white skin fondly holding a primitive piece of art.

This image is interesting in many ways. Instead of writing all of the ways, I will just stick to the idea of black bodies not owning their own bodies. For instance, this concept reminded me of Smith’s mention of “photographs that eugenicists and biological racialists used to codify bodies in racial terms” (Smith 61). These images are a tad disturbing because in some cases they are mimicked by primitive art. For further illustration, there is a haunting image in Smith’s book where a woman is partially naked and appears to be sad (Smith 48). The woman’s body appears to be stretched. Yet, it appears that her image, her physical body correlates with primitive art. The same primitive are that is being adored by the partially nude Caucasian woman in the poster for the Ratton exhibit. I am still trying to make connections about the similarities of primitive art, and biological racialists images, and ownership displayed in this poster.