Spelman College Art Museum
Shortly after the Los Angeles County Museum of Art acquired Chadwick Boseman’s portrait in 2020, it was titled: eternallyThe work, by artist Bisa Butler, was displayed by the museum as part of the exhibition “Portraits of Black Americans,” which complements a display of President Obama’s portraits. Butler is seen donning the red and black cape of the late actor, who played roles such as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall, James Brown and T’Challa. He stares back at you from a lush tropical landscape, a green rainbow surrounding his head like a halo.
The exhibition features more than 100 works from 1800 to the present by artists including Titus Kaphar, Karon Davis, Amy Sherald, Kehinde Wiley, Lyle Ashton Harris, and Shinique Smith. It was on display. The goal was to communicate the African American experience more broadly. The museum was planning to conduct this type of reassessment. It had been nearly 50 years since LACMA hosted his 1976 landmark show, “His Two Centuries of Black American Art,” curated by David C. Driskel. And because half of the works in “Black American Portraits” were newly acquired by the institution, the significance of the exhibition “was not just the exhibition itself, but also permanently changed the face of the collection.” says co-researcher Liz Andrews. – explained the show’s curator.
But the focus of the exhibition changed when it toured to Spelman College in Atlanta earlier this year. Mr. Spellman said Clark is a member of the Atlanta University Center, a consortium that includes Atlanta University and Morehouse College, and is a member of the HBCUs. HBCU is an abbreviation for more than 100 institutions of higher education that educate Black students. Civil War. In contrast to LACMA, a show like “Black American Portraits” can be viewed and understood in a different, more nuanced way at a venue like Spelman, where Black artists, especially Black women artists, have worked for years. be able to. There was always a home.
Andrews has long thought of the Spelman College Art Museum as “a place where you can go to see a solo show by an artist whose history you probably didn’t know until that show, or a solo show by a well-known artist.” just “It’s about to explode in the art world,” she said. Deborah Roberts had her solo exhibition there in 2018, and Afro-Cuban artist Harmonia Rosales’ touring solo exhibition opens at the museum on August 18th. An exhibition focusing on the museum’s permanent collection will begin in September. Tour of 5 venues nationwidebegins at Vassar College.
Jeremiah Ojo, an art consultant who grew up in Atlanta and has worked with artists such as Alfred Conte, Patrick Quam, and Nontsikelelo Mutiti, echoed Andrews’ opinion, saying, “Most of the modern and contemporary black art and artists are from Atlanta. It came out of my genealogy,” he said. Even if the mainstream art world didn’t pay attention to Atlanta until 2020, “after the George Floyd riots and heightened awareness, people are starting to notice that Atlanta is actually paying a lot of attention to what’s going on in Black America.” I started to realize that I needed to talk about it,”’ Ojo added.
The consortium has provided opportunities for Black artists and developed scholarship about Black artists for decades. Its origins date back to 1942, when artist Hale Woodruff, who was also head of the school’s art department, developed a juried exhibition exclusively for black artists (which became known as the Atlanta Annuals). It goes back to This exhibition laid the foundation for Clark’s unparalleled collection of works by 20th century black artists at his Atlanta University. Beginning in 1980, another juried show for Atlanta’s black artists was organized by Atlanta Life Insurance, a black-owned company, and eventually included artists such as Jacob Lawrence, Romere Bearden, and Elizabeth Catlett. I ended up amassing a huge collection of. These shows contributed to his creation of the National Black Arts Festival in 1987 and helped solidify Atlanta as an arts center.
The city has long been home to art enthusiasts like orthodontist Dameon Fisher, who has lived in Atlanta since the early days of the National Black Arts Festival and focuses on collecting the work of artists with ties to the southeastern United States. Boasts a group of collectors. Kent Kelly, a software company chief financial officer who moved to Atlanta in 2010, also recently decided on the plan after spending the past decade traveling to New York, Los Angeles and other parts of the world to buy art. I jumped on it.
For collectors like Kelly and Fisher, AUC’s University Museum collections are crucial to learning more about the genealogy of Black art production. “Learning about the history of African American art is very important for the people who are building these collections,” Fisher said.
Fisher has noticed a “huge increase” in Atlanta-based collectors recently, adding, “There are two distinct art scenes here: the older art scene, which is part of established Atlanta; , there are people who have been collecting for many years. And they are.”mostly silent [about what they collect]And another group participates in various events and shares them on social media. ”
However, the essence of AUC is that it is an academic center aimed at training the next generation of art historians, curators, artists, and critics, and its strengthening has only begun in recent years. From 2018 to 2020, the Clark Atlanta University Art Museum participated in the Diversifying Museum Leadership Initiative, funded by the Walton Family Foundation and the Ford Foundation. This is a joint post-baccalaureate program between Kennesaw State University’s Zuckerman Museum of Art and the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts that aims to provide hands-on museum training for budding curators. This led to the creation of the Fellowship. CAUAM’s then-director Maurita N. Poole spearheaded the program, and two of the program’s first fellows were Nzinga Simmons and T.K. Smith.
And in 2019, AUC launched the Art History and Curatorial Research Group, with art historian Cheryl Finley as its first director, to train undergraduates for careers in the visual arts. “People like Spelman and Cheryl Finley stand out for what they represent and how they brought Atlanta University students to the center of this curatorial dialogue,” Morehouse said. said Derek Fordjoule, a New York-based artist who studied as an undergraduate at .
Karen Comer Rowe, who became curator-in-residence at the Spelman College Museum last year, called the program “one of the most dynamic programs for developing young Black students seeking admission to museum spaces.” .
Another reason Atlanta is gaining mainstream attention as an emerging arts hub in the United States is the recent arrival of UTA Artist Space, a contemporary art gallery run by Arthur Lewis and associated with major Hollywood talent agencies . After hosting several pop-ups around the city, including one during the inaugural Atlanta Art Week last November, UTA Artist Space opened a permanent location in the city’s Midtown neighborhood in March .
“Personally, I think that [Atlanta] “The art scene was born out of UTA deciding to set up shop,” said Kendra Walker, an Atlanta-based art advisor who started Atlanta Art Week. “That’s when I noticed that my peers in other arts cities seemed to be more interested in the city of Atlanta as an arts center.”
Artist Alfred Conte said that while UTA’s arrival hasn’t necessarily changed anything on the Atlanta scene, the city is definitely “getting more attention now.” But he wonders why art fairs aren’t coming to the city, even though Atlanta “has the largest airport in the world, the largest tech community outside of California, and an entertainment industry, Black Hollywood.” ing.
Art fairs may bring an influx of money to the city, but several people said Atlanta still needs a venue to showcase contemporary art, even though it’s home to the AUC Art Museum and the city’s encyclopedia, the High Museum. Stated.
“If artists make a name for themselves nationally and internationally through Atlanta, Atlanta will be taken more seriously as an arts center,” Conte said.
As with other art hubs, a delicate ecosystem of artists, curators, collectors and institutions will need to work together to “wave the flag” to a national audience, Ford-Jules said. If they work together, Conte said, “we can change the landscape and the trajectory of how we contextualize Southern African American artists.”