The underlying issue with history of any kind is that the subject itself is subjective. A saying commonly attributed to Winston Churchill is that “history is written by the victors.” In many ways, art history is no different in this regard.
According to a study conducted by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, staff hired by art museums tend to favor predominantly non African-American and Hispanics. A rough total of 7 percent of workers are made up of said minorities. This shows a distressing lack of cultural and racial diversity in regards to the staff employed in art museums.
This is an important factor as art history refers to the collective artistic culture of humanity throughout the ages. Every person has their own interpretation of how art is viewed, and this should be reflected by the staff hired to educate those who come to witness history.
Art is by its very nature a constantly changing structure where what’s vogue at the time is constantly in a state of flux. However, due to the perception of the kind of art that is considered popular or correct at the time, many artists find themselves marginalized. Those artists who pursue different styles, or create pieces particularly poking at the edges of civilized sensitivity, find themselves relegated to the wayside of history. More must be done to include such artists with the purpose of broadening horizons to better reflect the times of today.
That is not to say there has been no progress on that front. The museum located in Tate, Britain have recently opened a tour called “A Queer Walk Through British Art.” This tour includes pieces that highlight an alternate view of human sexuality throughout history. One such example is the “Ena and Betty”, a painting created in 1901 by John Singer Sargent that subtly highlights close female companionship of a possibly homoerotic kind.
This, of course, is open to interpretation as are many pieces in that same gallery. As noted before, everyone has a different view on art, and that is something that should be embraced. It is through these differing viewpoints that complex histories may be unraveled and new discoveries may be made. What one person sees as a simple, but tasteful painting, another may find hidden meaning underneath the canvas.