The Smithsonian American Art Museum is exhibiting works from its collection by African American artists including WILLIAM H. JOHNSON.


WITH THE GRAND OPENING of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) less than a week away, anticipation is palpable. Visitor passes for the opening weekend disappeared shortly after their release and following last Wednesday’s media preview, numerous features have reported favorably on the forthcoming museum. While NMAAHC has been heralded for its object-based storytelling, documenting African American history from slavery to civil rights through the Presidency of Barack Obama, and exploring important cultural moments, it also celebrates visual art.

Designed by Ghanaian-British architect David Adjaye, the museum boasts a significant art collection and selections from the holdings will be on view in the museum’s dedicated art gallery when it opens Sept. 24. The exhibition includes works by McArthur Binion, Edward Clark, Barkley L. Hendricks, William H. Johnson, Lois Mailou-Jones, Amy Sherald, Alma Thomas, and Charles White, among many others. Large-scale installations by Sam Gilliam, Richard Hunt, and Chakaia Booker are also on view at the museum.

Beyond NMAAHC, opportunities to explore art by and about people of African descent abound in Washington, D.C. The city is brimming with exhibitions, talks and events. Some have been on view for months, others have September openings, and a few will be on view later in the fall. Several are official co-branded events, featuring the NMAAHC logo, presented in celebration of the museum’s debut.

The city is brimming with exhibitions, talks and events. Several are official co-branded events, featuring the NMAAHC logo, presented in celebration of the museum’s dedication.

The Hirshhorn Museum hosts Friday Gallery Talks. At the beginning of September, Hirshhorn conservator Gwynne Ryan gave a talk about preserving and protecting the materials in Senga Nengudi’s “RSVP Xon.” The artist, whose practice is rooted in the Black Arts Movement in 1960s Los Angeles, uses pantyhose in her work.

Lorna Simpson spoke at the National Gallery of Art earlier this month, presenting the inaugural Arnold Newman Lecture Series on Photography. Simpson’s work appears on one of four covers published by Smithsonian magazine for its special September issue dedicated to the African American museum.


Clockwise from top left, Architect Davide Adjaye, artists Theaster Gates, Leonardo Drew, and Jennie C. Jones.


Coinciding with the museum’s dedication on Saturday, several key events are taking place this week:

Whether you were lucky enough to get an early preview or you are awaiting the appointed day when your timed pass will allow you to gain entry into the nation’s much-anticipated African American museum, to complement your experience, there are more than 10 African American art exhibitions in Washington worth visiting now and in the weeks and months to come. CT


TOP IMAGE: WILLLIAM H. JOHNSON, “Going to Church,” circa 1940-41 (oil on burlap). | Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Harmon Foundation, Courtesy Smithsonian American Art Museum


In an exhibition co-organized with the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, six African artists “examine how time is experienced—and produced—by the body.”

“Senses of Time: Video and Film-Based Works of Africa” @ Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, National Mall | May 18, 2016-March 26, 2017

EMEKA OGBOH’s “Market Symphony, the museum’s first sound installation, features layered sounds from a market in Lagos, Nigeria.

“Market Symphony by EMEKA OGBOH” @ Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, National Mall | Feb. 23, 2016-Jan. 29, 2017

ALISON SAAR, “Compton Nocturne,” 2012 (color lithograph). | National Museum of Women in the Arts, Washington D.C., Promised Gift of Steven Scott, Baltimore, in Honor of 25th Anniversary of the National Museum of Women in the Arts (NMWA); © Alison Saar, Photo by Lee Stalsworth via NMWA

“ALISON SAAR In Print” @ National Museum of Women in the Arts, Metro Center | June 10-Oct. 2, 2016

HERMAN LEONARD, “Lester Young (still life),” 1948, printed 1998 (selenium-toned gelatin silver print). | via Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

“In the Groove: Jazz Portraits by Herman Leonard” @ Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery, Penn Quarter | Aug. 5, 2016-Feb. 20, 2017

From left, Artists Jacob Lawrence (1941), Horace Pippin (1940), and Romare Bearden (1944) by CARL VAN VECHTEN, printed 1983 (photogravure); Richard Benson (Printer). | Transfer from the National Endowment for the Arts, Photograph © Van Vechten Trust, Compilation/Publication © Eakins Press Foundation. From ‘O, Write My Name’: American Portraits, Harlem Heroes (Eakins, 2015), Courtesy Smithsonian America Art Museum

“Harlem Heroes: Photographs by CARL VAN VECHTEN” @ Smithsonian American Art Museum, Penn Quarter | Aug. 26, 2016-March 19, 2017

Works by Robert S. Duncanson, Augusta Savage, William H. Johnson, Sam Gilliam, Mark Bradford and Mickalene Thomas, among others, are on view. Shown, MARK BRADFORD, “Amendment #8,” 2014 (mixed media). | Smithsonian American Art Museum, Gift of the Lohrfink Foundation and museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment, © 2014, Mark Bradford, Courtesy American Art Musueum

Artworks by African Americans From the Collection @ Smithsonian American Art Museum, Penn Quarter | Sept. 1, 2016–Feb. 28, 2017

Graphic artist EMORY DOUGLAS served as art director of the Black Panther Party newspaper and later became the group’s minister of culture. | Courtesy of EMORY DOUGLAS, Artist Rights Society (ARS), NY. Photo courtesy of Art Resource, NY. via American University Museum

“It Takes a Nation: Art for Social Justice: With Emory Douglas, and the Black Panther Party, Africobra, and Contemporary Washington Artists” @ American University Museum, Katzen Arts Center, American University | Sept. 6-Oct. 23, 2016

Installation view of Elizabeth Catlett & Benny Andrews exhibition at Hemphill Fine Arts. | Courtesy the gallery

ELIZABETH CATLETT & BENNY ANDREWS @ Hemphill Fine Arts, 14th Street/Logan Circle | Sept. 14-Oct. 29, 2016

WILLIE COLE, “With a Heart of Gold,” 2005-06 (shoes, wood, screws, metal, and staples). | Photo by Jason Mandella; Image courtesy of Alexander and Bonin, New York

“WILLIE COLE: On Site” @ The David Driskell Center for the Study of Visual Art and Culture of African American and the African Diaspora, University of Maryland, College Park | Sept. 22-Nov. 18, 2016

JACOB LAWRENCE, The Migration Series,” Panel no. 1: During World War I there was a great migration north by southern African Americans., 1940–41 (Casein tempera on hardboard). | The Phillips Collection, Washington, D.C., Acquired 1942 © The Jacob and Gwendolyn Lawrence Foundation, Seattle / Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York

“People on the Move: Beauty and Struggle in JACOB LAWRENCE’s Migration Series” @ The Phillips Collection, Dupont Circle | Oct. 8, 2016-Jan. 8, 2017

WHITFIELD LOVELL, “Dawn to Dawn,” 2006 (Charcoal on wooden barn door and found objects). | Courtesy DC Moore Gallery © Whitfield Lovell and DC Moore Gallery, New York

“WHITFIELD LOVELL: The Kin Series and Related Works” @ The Phillips Collection, Dupont Circle | Oct. 8, 2016-Jan. 8, 2017

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