Monkman reframes history with commission for Met Museum entrance

By TRT Staff with notes from The Canadian Press

NEW YORK — Canadian Cree Artist Kent Monkman is unveiling two paintings commissioned by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to hang in the New York institution’s main entrance.

The installation, titled “mistikosiwak” (“Wooden Boat People”), is set to open in the Met’s Great Hall on Thursday.

And Monkman has had a big year.

The Canadian multimedia artist is still crisscrossing North America with his touring show of paintings, “Shame and Prejudice,” a journey which will continue well into 2020.

His new works are appearing in group shows from Duke University to Des Moines. But his next project catapults him into monument-maker status.

The works for the Met are also said to feature Monkman’s supernatural, gender-fluid alter-ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle, who reverses the colonial gaze to put forward a new artistic vision of Indigenous Peoples.

A known provocateur, with artworks that effortlessly but powerfully capture the horrors of colonialism, Monkman’s career-long exploration of his indigenous heritage—in particular the brutal legacy of violence against indigenous people—has led him to make award-winning paintings, short films, performances, installation, and an alter ego, Miss Chief Eagle Testickle.

‘Miss Chief’ sometimes appears in person, Monkman himself, or pops up in his paintings as a divine, animating or angered sylph clad in high heels. As Monkman himself once put it, Miss Chief is a “time traveling, gender fluid, Indigenous sex goddess” whose very presence disrupts the traditional, sanitized version of colonial history.

He is mum on whether or not Miss Chief is in the works about to be unveiled, but her actual presence is less important than what her spiritual presence has grown to represent, which is the decolonized gaze, righteous anger and long memory of the Indigenous Renaissance.

The large-scale commissioned paintings are also said to contain references to works in the Met’s collection, challenging European and North American depictions of Indigenous subjects.

In an interview posted on the Met’s website, Monkman says he sees this as a “turning point” for an institution that is encouraging shared perspectives on its own history.

The Met exhibition runs from Dec. 19, 2019 to April 9, 2020. Monkman’s solo exhibition, “Shame and Prejudice: A Story of Resilience,” is touring museums across Canada until 2020.

Monkman has been an art star in Canada and Europe for years now, but the Met commission is considered a huge leap in his career. It would be for anybody, but Monkman is allegedly taking it in stride with a calm demeanour towards the unveiling as he “hadn’t had time” to be nervous.

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