RETROSPECTIVE is a review of the latest news and happenings related to art by and about people of African descent, with a few nods to culture thrown in. This week, highlights include news that President Obama created a national monument, will honor artists Jack Whitten and Ralph Lemon with the National Medal of Arts, and is expected to ring a historic church bell at the dedication ceremony for the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture. Plus, curator Hamza Walker was hired to helm a Los Angeles arts institution.

From left, Artists Jack Whitten and Ralph Lemon, and curator Hamza Walker.



For months, some news outlets have inaccurately reported that President Obama will “cut the ribbon” at the opening celebration of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on Sept. 24. The President will indeed lead the dedication ceremony, give remarks, and it was announced this week he will ring a historic church bell. There are no plans for a ribbon cutting.

President Obama created the first Marine National Monument in the Atlantic Ocean, protecting fragile deep-sea ecosystems off the coast of New England.

With $10.25 million from major foundations and other contributors, Chicago Arts + Industry Commons (CAIC), a collaboration between artist Theaster Gates‘s Rebuild Foundation, University of Chicago’s Place Lab, and the City of Chicago, plans to expand a network of arts institutions on Chicago’s South Side, using art as a tool for neighborhood revitalization.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York has digitized it exhibition archives, making available online thousands of images and documents from 1929 to 1989, with more material still being added.

After artists recently accused Zara and Topman of copyright violations, Shantell Martin said Lane Bryant stole her designs.

Mickalene Thomas has produced a throw pillow in a limited edition of 999.


TOP IMAGES: Jack Whitten, Photo by Kristine Larson; Ralph Lemon, Photo by Gene Pittman; and Hamza Walker via Laxart.




Hamza Walker (top right) has been named executive director of LAXART, a Los Angeles nonprofit art space. He was director of education at The Renaissance Society, University of Chicago; a professor of painting and drawing at the School of Art Institute Chicago, and co-curated Made in L.A. 2016 at the Hammer Museum.

The California African American Museum in Los Angeles announced the appointment of Tyree Boyd-Pates as its new program manager/history curator (via Twitter).



Recipients of the 2015 National Medal of Arts were announced and will be presented by President Obama on Sept. 22. Honorees include artists Jack Whitten (top left) and Ralph Lemon (top center).

Independent Curators International announced 12 nominees for its 2016 Independent Vision Curatorial Award. The winner will be selected by Franklin Sirmans, director of Perez Art Museum Miami, and presented with the award on Oct. 26

Studio Museum Associate Curator Lauren Haynes served as a juror for the 2016 San Francisco Artadio Awards.


Antwaun Sargent and Kim Drew with “Big Egg” (1968) by EDWARD CLARK at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.



The Smithsonian National Museum of Africa American History and Culture hosted a media preview this week and revealed its visual art galleries. Early works by Joshua Johnson and William Harper and post-war and contemporary art by McArthur Binion, Edward Clark (above), David Driskell, Barkley L. Hendricks, William H. Johnson, Lois Mailou Jones, Mavis Pusey, Amy Sherald, Thelma Johnson Streat, Alma Thomas, Charles White, William T. Williams, are in the collection. Large-scale installations by Chakaia Booker, Sam Gilliam and Richard Hunt, are also on view.

Franklin Sirmans, director of Perez Art Museum Miami, and artist Adam Pendleton were among the participants in panel discussions at Culture Lab Detroit this week.

Betye Saar: Uneasy Dancer” (Sept. 15, 2016-Jan. 8, 2017) opened this week at Fondazione Prada in Milan. The presentation is Los Angeles-based Saar’s first exhibition in Italy.

Mana Contemporary in Jersey City, N.J., announced Whoopi Goldberg is curating a Marilyn Monroe exhibition.



Lupita Nyong’o covers the October issue of Vogue, her third cover for the magazine. Nyong’o, who stars in a new film “Queen of Katwe” is wearing an elegant head wrap in the amazing image photographed by Mario Testino, who captured her at home in Kenya and in a fashion spread featuring an array of colorful, style savvy prints.

For its September issue, Cultured magazine produced two covers featuring black artists—Julie Mehretu and Rashid Johnson. In “Insisting on Opacity,” the magazine talks to Mehretu about her new exhibition at Marian Goodman Gallery in New York.


Script and narration by Jay-Z, illustrations by Molly Crabapple, produced in collaboration with Jim Batt, Kim Boekbinder, and dream hampton.



In a visual op-ed in the New York Times, Jay-Z explained why the U.S. drug war is an epic fail.

The New York Times published a visually stunning preview of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, including portraits of key donors who gave Harriet Tubman’s hymnal and Nat Turner’s bible, among other rare objects, to the museum. SEE ALSO coverage in The Washington Post and Wall Street Journal.

From Paris to Knoxville, Tenn., there is a concerted effort to recognize artist Beauford Delaney (1901-1979). CT


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