CULTURE TYPE IS REVIEWING The Year in Black Art 2015 in monthly installments over the coming weeks. The report began with a look at The Newsmakers, seven artists and curators who continue to advance their practices and their projects with fresh approaches and new ideas—efforts that are recognized and often garner significant news coverage.

omd 1.29.04The review continues with the year’s most significant moments in April, including First Lady Michelle Obama‘s participation in the dedication ceremony for the new Whitney Museum of American Art building in New York, the centennial of artist Elizabeth Catlett, the opening of two important Jacob Lawrence exhibitions, and Time magazine naming artist Chris Ofili to its list of the year’s 100 Most Influential People. Plenty more art news, appointments, awards and honors, books, acquisitions, auction records, and other developments in African American art and throughout the diaspora, is also highlighted:

EXHIBITION | April 1: “Promised Land,” an exhibition of Jacob Lawrence works, opens at the Cantor Arts Center at Stanford University. According to Stanford, Cantor holds the largest collection of Lawrence works on the West Coast, thanks to a generous donation from the Kayden family in July 2014 of 56 paintings and prints by the artist (and one painting by Gwendolyn Knight Lawrence, his wife). The exhibition presents the works together for the fist time, charting the evolution of Lawrence’s output from 1943 to 1998.

AUCTION RECORD > | April 2: Swann Auction Galleries in New York holds its first African American fine art auction of the year. Titled “Ascension: A Century of African-American Art,” the sale yields several records. “Steve” by Barkley L. Hendricks covers the catalog and is the auction’s top-selling lot, selling for $365,000 (including fees), a record price for Hendricks and more than double its high estimate. Works by well-known figures Sam Gilliam, Lois Mailou Jones and David Driskell also achieve artist records, according to Swann. In addition, Thomas Watson Hunster, James C. McMillan and Marion Sampler, also establish high benchmarks. READ MORE


The Museum of Modern Art’s presentation of “One-Way Ticket” gives historic and cultural context to Jacob Lawrence’s legendary Migration series. | Video by MoMA


EXHIBITION | April 3: “One-Way Ticket: Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series and Other Visions of the Great Movement North,” which brings together Jacob Lawrence‘s entire 60-panel Migration series for the first time in 20 years. The epic 1941 works are presented with interpretations of migration by other creatives, spanning disciplines (film, literature, music) and generations and a coinciding catalog is published.

COVER ART | April 7: Work by Chicago-based artist Hebru Brantley appears on cover of “The BreakBeat Poets: New American Poetry in the Age of Hip-Hop,” which the publisher describes as “the first poetry anthology by and for the hip-hop generation.”

EVENT | April 10: Lowery Stokes Sims gives keynote at 26th Howard University James A. Porter Colloquium. The theme for the 26th annual gathering is “Sheroes and Womanists: An Examination of Feminist(s) Subjectivity in Modern and Contemporary African American Art.” Speakers also included Leslie King-Hammond and the gala honored Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, Juliette Harris and Lorraine O’Grady.


Nick Cave previews his “Here Here” exhibition at Cranbrook and explains the importance of his complementary engagements with communities throughout Detroit. | Video by Cranbrook Museum


PERFORMANCE | April 10: In anticipation of “Here Hear,” his exhibition at Cranbrook Art Museum opening June 20, Nick Cave begins staging a series of planned and impromptu Soundsuit performances and photo shoots around Detroit at iconic city locations. Pop-up venues are “leaked” via social media to draw crowds. The photo shoot images will be published as postcards in a book titled “Greetings from Detroit.”

EXHIBITION | April 10: “Unbranded: A Century of White Women, 1915-2015” (through May 23) Hank Willis Thomas‘s exhibition at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York is a counterpoint to “Unbranded: Reflections in Black by Corporate America, 1968-2008,” his 2010 installation at the Brooklyn Museum. A broad assembling of illustrations and photography, the show examines the representation of the “ideal feminine type” in print advertising and the “notions of virtue, power, beauty, privilege, and desire” associated with the images.

BOOK | April 14: “David Adjaye: Form, Heft, Material” is the companion volume to the first comprehensive museum survey dedicated to the architect David Adjaye‘s practice. Organized by Haus der Kunst in Munich and the Art Institute of Chicago, the exhibition explores 50 of Adaye’s projects. The book was intended to coincide with the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, his landmark project originally scheduled to open in 2015, now expected to debut in 2016.

elizabeth catlettEXHIBITION | April 14: Wynn Newhouse Awards Exhibition opens at Syracuse University’s Palitz Gallery. The annual show recognizes the work of five professional artists with disabilities, this year including Marlon Mullen.

BOOK | April 14: Published to accompany the first-ever survey of the rarely seen notebooks of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a traveling exhibition organized by the Brooklyn Museum, “Basquiat: The Unknown Notebooks” features more than 150 notebook pages filled with handwritten notes, poetry and drawings.

< LIVES | April 15: Elizabeth Catlett (1915-2012) centennial is celebrated with special exhibitions and events throughout the year at several institutions including the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco; Hampton University Museum in Virginia; La Salle University Art Museum in Philadelphia; Stella Jones Gallery in New Orleans; City College Center for the Arts in New York; and the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts and Culture in Charlotte, N.C.

NEWS > | April 16: Time magazine names Chris Ofili to its list of The 100 Most Influential People. The British artist who lives in Trinidad, is described as a “visionary painter” and among other artists “at the forefront of creativity.”chris-ofili-time-100-2015-artists Architect David Adjaye, who is good friends with Ofili, writes the tribute to the artist. He says in part, “[Ofili] asks questions about our time through intoxicating visual compositions that examine peripheral modernities and enable us to make sense of our world.”

BOOK | April 17: The New York Times reports on a new four-volume book series devoted to the more than 15,000 photographs assembled by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). The first book titled “Through the African American Lens: Double Exposure” serves as an introduction to the series and includes a companion exhibition opening in May.

MEDIA | April 19: For the New York Times, Kara Walker offers an assessment of Toni Morrison’s latest book “God Help the Child.” Her critique of the Nobel prize winning author’s first novel set in contemporary times, appears on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. READ MORE

AWARD/HONOR | April 20: The International Association of Art Critics/USA announces its 32nd annual awards honoring artists, curators, writers, museums and galleries in recognition of excellence in 2014. Those receiving first place awards include “Kara Walker: A Subtlety” at Domino Sugar Factory in Brooklyn, N.Y.; “Mickalene Thomas: I was born to do great things” at Kavi Gupta Gallery in Chicago; and The Jewish Museum for “From the Margins: Lee Krasner and Norman Lewis.” The awards are presented in June.

nytbookreview - kara walker - toni morrisonAWARD/HONOR | April 22: Mickalene Thomas is among artists honored at Bomb magazine’s 34th annual gala and auction in New York.

NEWS | April 23: Time magazine reports that every high school in America is getting a free DVD of “Selma.” Directed by Ava DuVernay, with contributions from rising art stars Bardford Young (cinematographer) and Jason Moran (composer), the feature film dramatizes Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic voting rights march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala.

NEWS | April 23: Curator Franklin Sirmans and artist Wangechi Mutu are among jurors announced for 2015 ArtPrize (Sept 23 – Oct 11) in Grand Rapids, Mich. In September, Dan Cameron, an independent curator who founded Prospect New Orleans, replaces Sirmans, after he is appointed director of the Perez Art Museum Miami.

AWARD\HONOR | April 23: The Venice Biennale announces that it has awarded its highest honor, the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, to El Anatsui, the Ghanaian-born artist who lives and works in Nigeria. Members of the biennale’s international jury were also released, with curator Naomi Beckwith of the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, among those named.


julie mehretu - meet the artist
At the Hirshhorn Museum, Julie Mehretu (right) in conversation with National Museum of African Art curator Karen Milbourne. | Photo by Cathy Carver


TALK | April 24: Ethiopian-born American painter Julie Mehretu discusses her practice with Karen Milbourne, a curator at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, for the Meet the Artist series at the Hirshhorn Museum. The event is presented in collaboration with the African art museum where the New York-based artist’s work is included in the exhibition “The Divine Comedy: Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell Revisited by Contemporary African Artists.” LISTEN to podcast of discussion

MAGAZINE | Issue 117 of Transition: The Magazine of Africa and the Diaspora is covered by a compelling photograph titled “Umfundi” from the Afronaut series by Cristina de Middel, and features an interview with architect David Adjaye about his design for the new Cooper Gallery of African and African American Art at Harvard University, and selections from the journal’s online forum discussing police killings of unarmed black men across the nation.


Drake discusses his motivation for collaborating with Sotheby’s and the connections he see between art and music. | Video by Sotheby’s


EXHIBITION | April 28: “I Like It Like This S|2 x Drake” opens at Sotheby’s. The New York auction house is collaborating with Drake, commissioning the rapper/musician to program a playlist for its selling exhibition of modern and contemporary works by 31 major African American artists, including Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Theaster Gates, David Hammons, Barkley L. Hendricks, Glenn Ligon, Wangechi Mutu, John Outterbridge, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar and Lorna Simpson.

Clyde B. Jones MET VP Institutional AdvancementACQUISITION | April 28: Blanton Museum of Art at the University of Texas at Austin announces gift of key works by Charles White. The collection from Susan G. and Edmund W. Gordon of Pomona, N.Y., features 20 works including drawings, prints and a major painting by White.

< APPOINTMENT | April 28: The Metropolitan Museum of Art appoints Clyde B. Jones III its first-ever senior vice president of Institutional Advancement.

BOOK | April 28: Over the past 25 years, Connecticut-based collector Deborah Neff has acquired more than 100 rare handmade African American dolls crafted between 1850 and 1930. “Black Dolls” illustrates, documents and contextualizes her important collection and includes contributions from Margo Jefferson and Faith Ringgold, among others.

NEWS | April 30: Ray McGuire, Citi’s global head of corporate and investment banking, and Rodney Miller, managing director of the mergers and acquisitions group at JPMorgan Chase, make ARTnet’s list of top 200 art collectors worldwide. Both collectors Studio Museum of Harlem trustees, in addition to serving on several other cultural boards.


First Lady Michelle Obama addresses Whitney Museum dedication ceremony on April 30, 2015. | Courtesy The Whitney Museum of Art, Photo by Filip Wolak


EVENT | April 30: The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York inaugurates its new building in the Meatpacking District with a dedication ceremony featuring First Lady Michelle Obama. Her remarks reference the importance of cultural institutions reaching out to and being welcoming to young people. “There are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers and they think to themselves, well, that’s not a place for me, for someone who looks like me, for someone who comes from my neighborhood,” Obama says. “In fact, I guarantee you that right now, there are kids living less than a mile from here who would never in a million years dream that they would be welcome in this museum.” WATCH video of entire ceremony

AWARD/HONOR | April 30: Thomas J. Lax, an associate curator in the Museum of Modern Art’s department of media and performance art, receives the Menil Collection’s Walter Hopps Award for Curatorial Achievement.

AWARD/HONOR | April 30: 31st Annual International Center of Photography Infinity Awards are held at Pier Sixty, Chelsea Piers. For 2015, LaToya Ruby Frazier wins Book category (for her first book “The Notion of Family,” and Questionbridge is honored in New Media category. CT


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