Social Media Ablaze as Danish Museums Accused of Being 'Too White'

King Frederik V - Sputnik International, 1920, 26.11.2021
While a group of artists, supported by identity researchers, argued that Danish museums are overwhelmingly white (to the point that even their walls are symbolically white), the Danish public pushed back at what they perceived as "wokeness on steroids".
A group of Danish artists has drawn the public's ire by railing against the nation's museums and accusing them of a dramatic lack of diversity and overwhelming "whiteness". Many on social media found that raising such criticisms in a mostly-white country was ridiculous.
According to a group of foreign-background artists, who participated in the Danish Radio documentary "Rebellion at the Academy", their criticism involves both exhibited artists and management.
"We only get one story told. We get a story of white men about white men for white men", artist Ihsan Ihsan, a student of the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, told Danish Radio, venturing that some must "relinquish their positions of power".
He is backed by a fellow artist, Dina El Kaisy Friemuth, who graduated from the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts in 2016.

"As a brown person, it feels strange to go into these white institutions, where everything is white. And I don't just mean that the people who work there are white. Everything is white. Even their walls", Dina El Kaisy Friemuth told Danish Radio.
The Organisation of Danish Museums (ODM), which represents 170 of the country's museums and conservation centres, admitted the lack of diversity.
"It is a relevant issue that the artists raise, and something we as an industry organisation are aware of. The existing power structures, which can help to promote a limited art expression... we cannot say we are free from it. And even though many places are working with the problem, we are not on target yet", director Nils Jensen said.
Nils Jensen explains that ODM encourages its member museums to be aware of diversity through various initiatives.

"However, responsibility for a specific exhibition and programme planning and specific conditions and workflows lies with the museums themselves", he stated.
It is no coincidence that underrepresented artists are currently fighting for representation in the art world, researcher and postdoc fellow Ida Lunde Jørgensen, an expert in national museums and national identity at the Centre for Business History at Copenhagen Business School, argued.

"The criticism is symptomatic of a much larger movement in society, where, for example, ethnic minorities and women demand to be represented as well", Ida Lunde Jørgensen ventured. "We have a strong, national narrative that we in Denmark are a small, homogeneous society, where everyone is equal, and that narrative is challenged by the fact that there are groups in society who not only feel, but can demonstrate that they are underrepresented in museums, on boards, et cetera", she added.
Social media users, however, were more critical of what they saw as "wokeness" and "identity politics".
"I missed the bit where the criticism becomes more concrete: which Danish museums are too white?", Berlingske journalist Troels Heeger tweeted.
"I rather missed an explanation [as to] why 'whiteness' is an intrinsic problem. If so, is it also problematic that Egyptian art museums reflect Egyptian culture and focus primarily on ethnic Egyptian artists?", another person replied.
"Danish Radio is chasing a confirmation of their own agenda. The vast majority cannot stand this ridiculous woke-on-steroids", another one mused on the channel's Facebook page.
"This is all so tiresome. Yes, there are white people in Denmark. Should we scold when everything is black in Africa or yellow in China?", another asked rhetorically.
According to 2021 figures from Statistics Denmark, 86 percent of Denmark's population of 5.8 million was of Danish descent.
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