October 12th, 2018

In my September 19th blog post, I wrote the following: “No one in the public saw (Hilma af Klint’s) private work until the mid 1960s, and it is only now gaining international recognition as being the first examples of non-objective painting in Western art, having preceded Kandinsky’s by at least four years.” Today, this is a headline about her work in Artsy Magazine:

I love Hilma af Klint’s work and am happy it is getting widespread recognition but come on, let’s me a bit more careful with our headlines. She did not “invent” abstract art! Abstract non-objective art has existed outside Western (aka: white people) art for thousands of years, the oldest example of it being from 73,000 years ago in Africa.

Headlines like these erase the gorgeous abstract traditions of Islamic, Asian and Indian art, as well as much of the art of Indigenous peoples, examples of which you can see in this article Colonizing Abstraction: Moma’s Inventing Abstraction show denies its ancient global origins. While Hilma af Klint was breaking ground within the modern western (white) world, she was not breaking ground in world art, she was simply carrying on a tradition.