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Black Artists

Black Artists’ Work Adorns the Walls of the National Gallery of Art

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A total of 40 artworks have been newly added to the National Gallery of Art’s collection in Washington. The acquisitions have been received from Souls Grown Deep Foundation, a non-profit organization committed to advocating African American art from the South.

New Artwork Added

Harry Cooper, senior curator and art department head at NGI, stated that the museum had been trying for the acquisition for the last three years. The purchase has brought along the work of 21 black painters, quilters and sculptors.

Kaywin Feldman was appointed as the new director of NGI in 2019. She helped visualize and implement the long process of acquisition. Previously she had overseen another acquisition of artwork from Souls Grown Deep while heading the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Powerful Themes

Stretching across diverse themes, the paintings instill powerful messages on relevant issues. Ms. Feldman elucidated in a statement, “These exciting works by artists from the American South demonstrate remarkable qualities of imaginative and conceptual daring and material inventiveness.”

Remarkable examples of the collection include the abstract sculptures of Lonnie Holley and the imaginative drawings of Nellie Mae Rowe. The works range from the four sculpted heads by James “Son Ford” Thomas to Mickalene Thomas’ Polaroid photograph depicting black femininity.

The other acquisitions include the work of Thornton Dial. His fraught assemblages are dedicated to the passing of a fellow artist, Bessie Harvey, and also Princess Diana. His 1995 work “Clothes Factory” was made with cloth strips and a grid of metal bedsprings. It was dedicated to famous quilter Sarah Dial Lockett.

Addressing Issues

Dr. Cooper spoke of the tough circumstances of the black artists. “These artists are out of the mainstream and don’t have traditional training. They are Black and from the South, often facing hardships to create their work,” he said. He also mentioned how the NGI art department’s diversity factor has been boosted.

The purchase was made at an opportune time after a petition alleging sexual and racial discrimination. The NGI leaders have called for increased efforts for transparency and diversity at the institution.

The president of Souls Grown Deep Foundation, Maxwell Anderson, is hopeful about increasing the exposure of self-taught and underappreciated artists. The NGI acquisition would bring these artists before the public.

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