What's in a name?

December 16 2015

Image of What's in a name?

Picture: Rijksmuseum

The Rijksmuseum in Holland has decided to rename any potentially controversial paintings. So, for example, the above picture (detail) by Simon Maris used to be called 'Young Negro Girl' - but now will be called 'Young Girl with a Fan'.

I was asked to comment on this by a UK newspaper - though it seemed that their angle on the story was to say that it was a politically correct outrage. Actually, I think it's pretty sensible. Changing a title to remove any offensive words is very different from censoring the artwork itself, which nobody is proposing to do. Much of the time titles are stuck to pictures by later observers/owners. So, I agree with Jonathan Jones that the Rijksmuseum is doing a worthwhile thing. Nick Serota of Tate has apparently said he wouldn't do it.

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