AGO apologizes for racist costumes at fundraiser party
The Art Gallery of Ontario has apologized for allowing performers to wear Asian conical hats and kimono-like robes during the entertainment portion of its annual Massive Party fundraiser late last week.
"In a performance intended to play with stereotypes, the artist's performance included racist costumes that are deemed offensive to the East Asian community," wrote the AGO on Facebook and Instagram in response to critics who found the costumes racist.
"The end result was that the costumes in the artist's performance perpetuated negative stereotypes, regardless of the artist's intent. This is not acceptable."
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The art gallery came under fire in the days following Thursday's party as two images from artist Pedram Karimi's fashion show started circulating the web.
"These are white people wearing traditional Chinese wear. Cultural appropriation is NOT art," commented one person on an Instagram photo posted by the account bkonthescene.
"Uh @agotoronto could you not with this appropriative nonsense?" wrote another critic on Twitter Friday night.
.@agotoronto Really? Orientalism “China hats”? Disappointing choice, especially given the expansive success of the Yayoi Kusama exhibit — and the racism she faced throughout her 60+ year art career. #infinitekusama #badtasteinmymouth https://t.co/X0KvET80Hu— Carolynne Hew 🙋🏻♀️ (@CarolynneHew) April 23, 2018
The AGO has apologized "unreservedly" for failing to achieve the right balance when "dealing with sensitive issues."
"The AGO is proud to be part of a diverse community in the heart of downtown Toronto and strives to be welcoming and inclusive," reads its statement.
"We commit to doing better moving forward, working with artists and the artistic community to ensure that this doesn't happen again."
A King West nightclub called Wildflower took similar heat back in March for hosting an event it called "Stir Fry," in which staff members were seen wearing rice paddy hats, kimonos and chopsticks in their hair.
The establishment apologized shortly after photos of the event started circulating on Instagram, writing that it had "executed poor judgment in the event concept."
The artist behind the work that the AGO has apologized for has yet to comment publicly, though his bio on the gallery's website does say that his purpose is "to push social boundaries, blur stereotypes and bring genders, generations and social groups closer together."
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