History Told Slant: Seventy-seven Years of Collecting Art at MSU takes an expansive view of the collection at the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum, reveling in the great breadth of works within the collection while also confronting the dominant (and domineering) narratives that shape its contours. Taking cue from the great poet and literary figure, Emily Dickinson, who encourages us to “tell all the truth but tell it slant,” the exhibition breaks with conventions of the western art historical canon in order to acknowledge gaps and fissures within the collection. Ultimately, this effort is part of the museum’s ongoing efforts to develop a more inclusive version of the history of art—one less predicated on singular, white, Eurocentric values, favoring instead a plurality of perspectives and voices to help shape the larger narratives.
This survey exhibition results from looking at the collection through several angled lenses. In both literal and figurative ways, the slanted architecture of the Zaha Hadid-designed galleries offers an opportunity to explore shifting perspectives in how we approach and understand art history and the collecting practices that have shaped many museums across the world, including the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum. Key organizing principles that frame the exhibition include the recognition of different visual storytelling and narrative strategies from across different geographies, time periods, and cultures; investigations of how the collection came to be and the ethics of collecting, then and now; and how confronting and learning from the past can help us better determine the course ahead. The exhibition also blends global perspectives with the local with a section focused on the history of art at Michigan State University and in the mid-Michigan region.
History Told Slant thus offers a joyous and illuminating experience, asserting the collection as a source of continued study and appreciation on campus and in our community, while also providing a platform to engage conversations around social and racial justice, colonial histories of exploitation, and the role of art in spreading awareness and cultural competency throughout our communities and the world.