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.

The review continues with the year’s most significant moments in May, including the opening of the 56th Venice Biennale under the artistic direction of Okwui Enwezor, who also covers the May/June issue of men’s Italian Vogue; the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art each acquiring Aaron Douglas paintings; Stephen Burks winning a Cooper Hewitt National Design Award; and a painting by Mark Bradford selling for nearly $4.4 million (including fees), an artist record. Plenty more art news, appointments, awards and honors, books, and other developments in African American art and throughout the diaspora, is also highlighted:


zanele muholi -may 2015 - black + white photog mag
Vuwyelwa Vuvu Makubetse, Daveyton, Johannesburg, from the series “Faces and Phases” 2013, by Zanele Muholi on the cover of the May 2015 issue of Black + White Photography magazine.


MAGAZINE | An image by South African photographer Zanele Muholi covers the May issue of Black + White Photography magazine, Issue No. 173. The activist photographer uses her images to create visibility for lesbian and transgender communities in South Africa and the cover coincides with “Zanele Muholi: Isibonelo/Evidence” (May 1-Nov. 8), her solo exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, the most comprehensive museum presentation of her work to date. Inside the issue, coverage includes an article about “Staying Power: Black British Experience 1950s-1990s,” a photography exhibition and archival project at the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum in London, and a feature about Carlos Javier Ortiz‘s photographs documenting the aftermath of gun crimes in Philadelphia and Chicago.

EVENT | May 4-10: Wangechi Mutu provides “Root of All Eves” for cover image of PEN World Voices Festival of International Literature program in New York.

stephen burks - dedar roping stools< AWARD/HONOR | May 5: Cooper Hewitt, the Smithsonian Design Museum announces recipients of National Design Awards, including Stephen Burks (at left), who is recognized for product design. READ MORE

MAGAZINE | In the May issue of Modern Painters, artist Kambui Olujimi begins a series of dialogues with fellow artists about race, police brutality, and their experiences with law enforcement in the wake of the steady stream of national news stories about unarmed black men and youth being killed by police. The first conversation is with Los Angeles-based artist Mark Bradford. In the June edition, Olujimi speaks with Brooklyn-based artist Yashua Klos. READ MORE

HONOR/AWARD | May 7: Cartoonist Darrin Bell of the Washington Post Writers Group wins 2015 RFK Journalism Award for his “Candorville” cartoons focusing on race and police.

HONOR/AWARD | May 8: Curator and writer Mark Godfrey wins 2015 Absolut Art Award for art writing to support his editing of an anthology dedicated to ‘The Black Art Debate’ and African American art in the 1960s and 70s that will explore the work of artists including Frank Bowling, Melvin Edwards, Sam Gilliam, Al Loving, Jack Whitten, and William T. Williams, among others. The biennial award includes as cash prize in addition to a budget to develop the supported project. In 2013, artist Coco Fusco won the first Absolut Art Award for art writing, for a publication about contemporary performance art in Cuba.



May 9: The 56th Venice Biennale, under the artistic direction of Okwui Enwezor, the first African to hold the post, opens. The citywide exhibition spans seven months and includes 89 nations participating in the historic pavilions; “All the World’s Futures,” the international exhibition curated by Enwezor features more than 35 black artists and venues designed by architect David Adjaye; a theatrical production of “Norma” with direction, sets and costumes by Kara Walker; and top awards bestowed on artists El Anatsui and Adrian Piper by a jury that includes MCA Chicago curator Naomi Beckwith. VISIT VENUES via Google Street View

AWARD/HONOR | May 11: Since 1938, the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has presented honorary degrees to “an elite group of individuals who have made significant contributions to art, design, scholarship, and culture.” Multidisciplinary artist Kanye West joins the list, chosen with four others to receive the honor in 2015.


illustrated edition of Beloved by Toni Morrison 1
“Beloved” by Toni Morrison, with an introduction by Russell Banks and illustrations by Joe Morse (The Folio Society, 304 pages). | Published May 12, 2015


BOOK | May 12: First-ever illustrated version of Toni Morrison‘s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “Beloved” is published by The Folio Society with nine full-page color illustrations by Joe Morse.

APPOINTMENT | May 12: Anita Hill, an attorney and professor at Brandeis University who accused Clarence Thomas of sexual harassment at his 1991 U.S. Supreme Court confirmation hearings, joins board of the Rose Art Museum at Brandeis.

AUCTION | May 12: At Sotheby’s Contemporary Art Evening Auction, “Smear,” a new painting by Mark Bradford, sells for $4,394,000 (including fees), a record at the time for the Los Angeles-based artist. READ MORE


David Driskell discusses “Let My People Go,” the Aaron Douglas painting acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. | Video by Met Museum


ACQUISITION | May 14: Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C., each acquire Aaron Douglas paintings purchased from a private collector who bought them directly from the artist. The Met is bringing “Let My People Go” (1935-39) into its collection, and the National Gallery now owns “The Judgement Day” (1939). READ MORE

EXHIBITION | May 14: “LaToya Ruby Frazier: Selected Works” (through July 9) opens at Aperture Foundation in New York, featuring images from LaToya Ruby Frazier‘s first book, “The Notion of Family.” WATCH Frazier walk through the exhibition.

eli reed - a long walk homeART FAIR | May 15-17: After two events in London, 1:54 Contemporary African Art Fair makes it New York debut at Pioneer Works Center for Art + Innovation in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Referencing the 54 countries on the African continent, the fair is a platform for established and emerging artists and features 16 galleries.

< BOOK | May 15: “Eli Reed: A Long Walk Home,” the definitive retrospective of photographer Eli Reed‘s work is published. Reed’s journey “has taken him from a low-income housing project in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to Harvard University and to membership in the elite international photojournalists’ collective, Magnum Photos.” The first book to document his career, the volume features more than 250 domestic and international images exploring and attempting to understand the human condition.

EVENT | May 17: Black Lunch Table, a collaborative art project established by Jina Valentine and Heather Hart, convenes at the Studio Museum in Harlem for a Wikipedia edit-a-thon to write black artists into art history. The goal is to “create, update, and improve” articles about the lives and practices of black artists, many represented in the museum’s collection.

nationaMedalwinAWARD/HONOR > | May 18: Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture is among 10 institutions to receive the National Medal for Museum and Library Science, the nation’s highest honor given to libraries and museums.

EXHIBITION | May 23: Known for his character-driven works, Houston-based Trenton Doyle Hancock‘s first solo exhibition in London, “I Want to Be at the Meeting After the Separation,” opens at Hales Gallery on May 24.

BOOK | May 26: Coinciding with the exhibition at the Montgomery Museum of Fine Arts (March 14-May 31), the catalog “History Refused to Die: The Enduring Legacy of African American Art in Alabama” documents the work of 14 self-taught African American artists from Alabama, including Thornton Dial, Lonnie Holley, Joe Minter, Ronald Lockett, Mose Tolliver, as well as quilters from Gee’s Bend.

nka.36_front< MAGAZINE: The May issue of Nka Journal explores the intersection of contemporary art and the #Blacklivesmatter Movement. In the editor’s note for the special issue titled “Visualizing the Riot,” Chika Okeke-Agulu reminds readers that during the Civil Rights Movement artists of color considered the relationship between their work and politics and social justice, citing three groups in particular—Spiral in New York; Los Angeles artists associated with the Watts Tower Arts Center; and Chicago-based AfriCOBRA. If “Ferguson and the movement it catalyzed announce a new civil rights era,” Okeke-Agulu writes, “we have to ask, with an eye to history: When will contemporary artists acknowledge through their work that something profound, once again is happening in our streets?”

EVENT | May 28-31: Convened by New York University in Florence, Italy, Black Portraiture(s) II gathers creatives and scholars to consider “comparative perspectives on the historical and contemporary role played by photography, art, film, literature, and music in referencing the image of the black body in the West.” The theme for the conference is “Imaging the Black Body and Re-staging Histories.”


Wyatt Mitchell, director of Apple News (right), with Apple Creative Director Arem Duplessis. | Getty Images


APPOINTMENT | May 29: Creative Director Wyatt Mitchell (above right) leaves The New Yorker magazine to join Apple as director of Apple News.

EVENT | During commencement season, a number of prominent visual artists—Rick Lowe, Alison Saar, Wangechi Mutu, Adrian Piper, and Sonya Clark—speak a university and art school graduation ceremonies and activities along the East Coast and in Berlin. READ MORE


okwui-enwezor - Men's Italian Vogue cover - May 2015
Style-minded, globetrotting curator Okwui Enwezor covers the May issue of men’s Italian Vogue and discusses the 56th Venice Biennale inside.


MAGAZINE | Okwui Enwezor, artistic director of the 56th Venice Biennale and director of the Haus der Kunst museum in Munich, covers the May/June issue of men’s Italian Vogue. Describing Nigerian-born Enwezor as “an odd cross between a curator and a diplomat,” the magazine delves into his artistic vision and sartorial style, in a cover story interview conducted by Massimiliano Gioni, artistic director of the New Museum in New York. CT


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