The Broad brought Kara Walker and Ava DuVernay together for a conversation on Oct. 11, 2014, in Beverly Hills.


HOUSING THE EXPANSIVE Eli and Edythe Broad collection of post-war and contemporary art, The Broad museum will open its doors in downtown Los Angeles next year. In the lead up to its debut, the museum is hosting “The Un-Private Collection,” a series of cross-disciplinary dialogues, engaging conversations between artists and art leaders about their disciplines and works in the Broad collection.

The ninth talk featuring artist Kara Walker and filmmaker Ava DuVernay occurred on Oct. 11 at The Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills (see video). According to Joanne Heyler, the director of the museum, the Walker/DuVernay event sold out within eight hours of the tickets becoming available online.

DuVernay has forged an impressive film career as a writer, director, producer and distrbutor after starting out as a publicist. Celebrated at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, she won Best Director for “Middle of Nowhere.” Her forthcoming feature “Selma,” the much-anticipated former Lee Daniels project, dramatizes the voting rights campaign led by Martin Luther King Jr., in 1965.

Although the museum holds just a handful of works by black artists, the Broad’s have been acquiring Walker’s art since early in her career and claim to own the largest collection of her work on the West Coast. Shortly before the event, the acquisition of two more works was announced: “Burning African Village Play Set,” an assembling of cut-steel silhouettes and “Palmetto Libretto,” an amazing, mural-size charcoal drawing.

In November, Walker is exhibiting a series of works related to “A Subtlety,” her public art work that was on view earlier this year at the old Domino Sugar Factor in Brooklyn. The show at Sikkema Jenkins gallery will include fragments from the monumental sugar sphinx, the attendant boy sculptures, and preparatory notes and sketches Walker drew as she conceptualized the project.

Although the museum holds just a handful of works by black artists, the Broad’s have been acquiring Kara Walker’s art since early in her career.

CT Kara Walker - A Subtlety
The Broad museum talk focuses on Kara Walker’s sugar sphinx sculpture on view the old Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn from May 10 to July 6, 2014. Its creation is the subject of Walker’s forthcoming exhibition at Sikkema Jenkins in November. | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine


During the conversation, which centers around Walker’s sugar sphinx, DuVernay asks the artist about the controversial sculpture and the public response to it, which she has had several months to step back from and consider as she prepares for the Sikkema Jenkins show. What begins as an uneven discussion (it takes DuVernay a while to find her rhythm, but she raises good questions despite describing herself as “art illiterate”) improves as her questions become more poignant, including queries about criticism of the images and representations of black people, black bodies and black history that Walker produces for mostly white audiences in white spaces.

At the end, before taking questions from the audience, DuVernay asks about Walker’s cultural habits. The artist said she doesn’t watch TV, but often listens to music in her studio—Erykah Badu, D’Angelo and Beethoven. She is on Instagram, anonymously. Audience questions were posed via Twitter and someone asked DuVernay if she had ever considered creating a television series. She said, she is in fact and that the details would be announced soon. CT


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