Anatomy of a Disputed Emancipated Monument

Debra Brehmer, Hyperallergic, May 24, 2023

MADISON, Wisconsin — The Chazen Museum of Art, on the campus of the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has done a remarkable job tackling the problem of how to reassess museum holdings that are racist, Confederate, or rife with assumptions of domination.


The project that’s become re:mancipation germinated when nationally known artist Sanford Biggers was on the Madison campus for the closing of his exhibition Bam in 2019. At a dinner, Museum Director Amy Gilman and Biggers discussed a problematic sculpture that has been on view in the Chazen’s permanent collection since 1976. The museum was unsure about what to do with “Emancipation Group” (1873) by Thomas Ball. Biggers’s response was that it should be thoughtfully examined rather than simply removed. “We should always have some debate,” he said in a phone conversation. “It’s a pillar of democracy.”


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