Etiquette and cross cultural aesthetics
In transferring an object into a museum or gallery we generally reclassify it as art, foregrounding the artists’ skills and use of materials. This has been assumed to be a sign of respect. Yet it is also apparent that the that the artistic and aesthetic qualities that we admire about the objects from other cultures, religions and other periods of history are not necessarily the predominant feature of classification for the creators of those objects. In such a situation, the creators or guardians of such objects may object to the re-contextualisation of the object, and aesthetic and ethical or political values must conflict. This paper argues that if aesthetic appreciation has the capacity to create communities of understanding and respect, as has been claimed for it, then this this involves an imaginative engagement with etiquette and the ceremonial contexts for which such objects were produced.