AT EVERY STAGE IN AN ARTIST’S CAREER, joining a new gallery can offer new opportunities and possibilities. Over the past year, emerging artists, mid-career artists, and well-established artists who have been practicing for half a century, joined the rosters of major galleries. For an artist, the right partnership can sharpen business outcomes and help bolster creative pursuits. Gallery representation presents the opportunity to re-focus on successfully communicating an artist’s oeuvre; open their work up to a wider audience of collectors, curators, scholars, and critics; and amplify resources for new projects and exhibitions. In 2016, a number of galleries announced their representation of important African American artists. Working in a range of mediums, from painting, photography, and sculpture, to community development, performance, and more, these 10 artists to watch are embarking new chapters in their practices.


EMMA AMOS Detail Why We Left the Beach 1987 Photo by Victoria L. Valentine
Detail of EMMA AMOS, “Why We Left the Beach,” 1987 (acrylic and handwoven fabric on linen with fabric borders). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

Emma Amos | Ryan Lee Gallery, New York

Emma Amos (b. 1938) joined Ryan Lee Gallery in January. Born in Atlanta and based in New York, Amos is one of the last surviving members of Spiral, the short-lived artist collective co-founded by Romare Bearden in 1963. She was the group’s youngest and only female member. Throughout her career, Amos has pushed herself in new directions. Earlier paintings were a blend of figuration and abstraction. Her 1980s collage on fabric paintings were presented earlier this year at Ryan Lee, and her work is on view in the group show “The Color Line” at the Musée du Quai Branly in Paris through Jan. 15, 2017. The Georgia Museum of Art at the University of Georgia at Athens honored Amos with the 2016 Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Award for contributions to visual art and culture.

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Photo: Emma Amos. | via


WILLIAM POPE.L, “Gold People Are Black Children”, 2015 (oil and hammer on linen). | Courtesy of the Artist, Mitchell-Innes & Nash, New York, Galerie Catherine Bastide, Brussels, and Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects. © Pope.L; Photo by Robert Wedemeyer

Pope.L | Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Project, Los Angeles

Susanne Vielmetter Los Angeles Projects announced its representation of multidisciplinary artist Pope.L (b. 1955) in March. The gallery’s roster of 35 artists also includes Edgar Arceneaux, Charles Gaines, Rodney McMillian, Wangechi Mutu, and Mickalene Thomas. Previously known as William Pope.L, the gallery told Culture Type that the Newark, N.J.-born, Chicago-based artist expressed his preference for the abbreviated moniker “Pope.L” in November 2015. Recongnized for his pioneering contributions to performance and body art and interventionist approach to public art, Pope.L’s practice also encompasses painting, drawing, sculpture, video, and theater. “William Pope.L: Trinket,” his 2015 solo exhibition at The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA Los Angeles, was the largest museum presentation of his work to date. Also represented by Mitchell-Innes & Nash in New York and Galerie Catherine Bastide in Brussels, Pope.L is participating in the 2017 Whitney Biennial which opens March 17.


Photo: Pope.L at MOCA Gala, May 30, 2015, Los Angeles | Frazer Harrison, Getty Images


JACK WHITTEN, “The First Portal,” 2015 (acrylic on canvas). | © Jack Whitten, Courtesy the artist, Hauser & Wirth

Jack Whitten | Hauser & Wirth, New York

Known for his conceptual approach to abstraction, painter Jack Whitten (b. 1939) joined Hauser & Wirth gallery in New York, for worldwide representation, in April. His first career-spanning exhibition was recently on view. “Jack Whitten: Five Decades of Painting” was organized by the Museum of Contemporary Art, San Diego in 2014, traveled to the Wexner Center for the Arts at the Ohio State University, and closed at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis in January 2016. Born in Bessemer, Ala., Whitten lives and works in Queens, N.Y., and for decades has spent summers in Crete. In September, President Obama awarded Whitten with the National Medal of Arts. Next year, Hauser & Wirth is planning a pair of exhibitions. The artist’s work will be on view at the gallery in New York (Jan. 26-April 8, 2017) and London (Sept. 20-Nov. 18, 2017). The gallery’s roster of more than 60 artists also includes Mark Bradford, Ellen Gallagher, and Rashid Johnson.

READ MORE about Jack Whitten on Culture Type


Photo: Jack Whitten in front of his painting “Atopolis: For Édouard Glissant” (2014) | Photo by John Berens, Courtesy Hauser & Wirth


THEASTER GATES, Installation view, “Three or Four Shades of Blue, SALTWATER: A Theory of Thought Forms,” 14th Istanbul Biennial (Sept. 5-Nov. 1, 2015). | Photo by Korhan Karaoysal via Regen Projects

Theaster Gates | Regen Projects, Los Angeles

Regen Projects announced Theaster Gates (b. 1973) joined the gallery in April, marking his first U.S. representation since 2012. Formally educated as a potter and urban planner, Chicago-based Gates is an artist and curator whose practice is a hybrid of community development, social engagement, object making and performance. He is globally recognized for redeveloping abandoned properties on the South Side of Chicago and reprogramming them as artistic hubs, archival repositories and vibrant community gathering places. Over the past year, his work has been presented in solo exhibitions in Chicago, Toronto, Milan, and Bregenz, Austria. A September performance at the Hirshhorn Museum coincided with the opening of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Gates is featured in “Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art” at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University through Jan. 8, 2017. “But To Be A Poor Race,” his first solo exhibition at Regen Projects opens Jan. 14. The Los Angeles gallery’s roster of nearly 40 artists also includes Glenn Ligon and Gary Simmons. Gates is also represented by White Cube in London.

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Photo: Theaster Gates | Photo by Max McClure via Regen Projects


SIMONE LEIGH, “Untitled V (Anatomy of Architecture Series),” 2016 (terra cotta, porcelain, manganese, 14K gold luster, raffia, india ink, epoxy). | © Simone Leigh; Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York

Simone Leigh | Luhring Augustine, New York

In May, Luhring Augustine gallery announced its representation of Simone Leigh (b. 1968). The Brooklyn-based artist’s work investigates female subjectivity and ethnography and spans sculpture, video, installation and performance. Her exhibition “Simone Leigh: The Waiting Room” was presented at the New Museum this year, where she also hosted a landmark gathering on Sept. 1: “Black Women Artists for Black Lives Matter.” She is participating in a Studio Museum in Harlem public art project. “inHarlem: Simone Leigh” is installed in Marcus Garvey Park until July 25, 2017. “Hammer Projects: Simone Leigh” is on view at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles through Jan. 8. With locations in Chelsea and Bushwick, Luhring Augustine represents about 30 other artists, including Glenn Ligon and Jason Moran.

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VISIT Simone Leigh’s website


Photo: Simone Leigh. | Photo by Paul Mpagi Sepuya


SANFORD BIGGERS, “Harmonics 2,” 2012 (fabric treated acrylic, spray paint, cotton on repurposed quilt). | Courtesy the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York, © Sanford Biggers

Sanford Biggers | Marianne Boesky, New York

Sanford Biggers (b. 1970), whose practice spans installation, film, video, drawing, sculpture, original music, and performance, joined Marianne Boesky Gallery in October. A Los Angeles native now based in New York, Biggers explores “the shifting meaning of symbols, nostalgia, history, the figure, and the complexities of identity in today’s social and political landscape.” The artist, who is also represented by galleries in Chicago, Miami, London and Milan, has a solo exhibition “Sanford Biggers: Subjective Cosmology” on view at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit through Jan. 1, 2017. The installation “New/Now: Sanford Biggers” runs through Jan. 23 at the New Britain Museum of American Art in New Britain, Conn. He is also featured in the group exhibitions “Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art” at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University through Jan. 8, and “In Context: Africans in America,” at Goodman Gallery in Johannesburg, South Africa, through Jan. 17. Marianne Boesky will present a solo exhibition of his work next year. The gallery also represents the late Thornton Dial Sr.

VISIT Sanford Biggers’s website


Photo: Sanford Biggers. | Photo by by Alex Fredundt, Courtesy the artist and Marianne Boesky Gallery, New York


DEANA LAWSON, “The Garden, Gemena, DR Congo” 2015 (inkjet print). | © Deana Lawson via Sikkema Jenkins

Deana Lawson | Sikkema Jenkins, New York

Sikkema Jenksins announced its representation of photo-based artist Deana Lawson (b. 1979) in October. Her practice “examines the body’s ability to channel personal and social histories, addressing themes of familial legacy, community, romance, and religious spiritual aesthetics.” Inspired by a blend of social documentary, figurative portraiture, and family album-style snapshots, her images explore visual expression and identity in black culture. Born in Rochester, N.Y., she lives and works in Brooklyn. Her solo exhibition “Deana Lawson: Ruttenberg Contemporary Photography Series,” was recently presented at the Art Institute of Chicago. She will be featured in a group show opening at Sikkema Jenkins on Jan. 13, 2017, and is participating in the 2017 Whitney Biennial, which opens in March. Lawson is also represented by Rhona Hoffman Gallery in Chicago. Sikkema Jenkins represents nearly 30 other artists including Leonardo Drew, Leslie Hewitt, Jennie C. Jones, Jennifer Packer, and Kara Walker.


Photo: Deana Lawson. | via Princeton University


WILLIAM T. WILLIAMS, “Blue Nite (Shimmer Series),” 1974 (acrylic on canvas). | © William T. Williams. Courtesy Michael Rosenfeld Gallery LLC, New York, NY

William T. Williams | Michael Rosenfeld Gallery, New York

In November, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery in New York announced its exclusive representation of William T. Williams (b. 1942). The gallery is the first to represent the artist since the 1970s. Pushing his practice in new directions decade after decade, he expresses personal, political and cultural narratives through abstraction. A major painting by Williams, a masterful blend of color and geometry, is mounted at the entrance of the visual art galleries of the new Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C. Born in rural Cross Creek, N.C., Williams was raised in New York, where he still lives and works, splitting his time between the city and Connecticut. In March 2017, the gallery is presenting a solo exhibition of his work, which will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog. Its extensive roster also includes artists Betye Saar, Barbara Chase Riboud, and the estates of Norman Lewis, Benny Andrews and Bob Thompson. Michael Rosenfeld also owns significant works by Alma Thomas, an important artist it has championed.

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Photo: William T. Williams | via


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Pool Party at Rockingham #1” and “Pool Party at Rockingham #2” (both acrylic and spray paint on canvas). | © Nina Chanel Abney. Courtesy the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York

Nina Chanel Abney | Jack Shainman, New York

nina-chanel-abney-whitney-studio-party-at-the-whitney-museum-of-american-art-nyc-051716-iandrew-toth-getty-imagesJack Shainman in New York added Nina Chanel Abney (b. 1982) to its impressive roster of nearly 40 diverse artists in November. Abney is an intuitive, next-generation storyteller who is boldly redefining narrative figurative painting. Born in Chicago, she lives and works in New York. Abney was previously represented by Kravets Wehby where her exhibition “Always a Winner” was on view last fall. Her work is featured in “30 Americans” the group show of African American contemporary artists being presented at the Tacoma Art Museum through Jan. 15, 2017. Next February, “Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush,” her first solo museum exhibition opens at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. A fully illustrated catalog will be published to coincide with the 10-year survey. Abney joins an impressive slate of contemporary artists at Jack Shainman, including Kerry James Marshall, Nick Cave, El Anatsui, Barkley L. Hendricks, Titus Kaphar, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Hank Willis Thomas, Leslie Wayne, Carrie Mae Weems, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye.

READ MORE about Nina Chanel Abney on Culture Type

VISIT Nina Chanel Abney’s website


Photo: Nina Chanel Abney attends the 2016 Whitney Studio Party at The Whitney Museum of American Art in New York on May 17, 2016. | Photo by Andrew Toth, Courtesy Getty Images


JORDAN CASTEEL, Detail of “Glass Man Michael,” 2016 (oil on canvas). | Photo by Victoria L. Valentine

Jordan Casteel | Casey Kaplan, New York

Jordan Casteel, a young painter whose environmental portraits explore black male identity, joined Casey Kaplan gallery earlier this month. Born in Denver, Colo., Casteel was a 2015-16 artist-in-residence at the Studio Museum in Harlem. She lives and works in New York. She was featured in the December issue of Elle magazine alongside Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum, in an article about “15 Women Artists Who Are Changing Their World—And Ours.” She has also been identified as an artist on the rise by a number of outlets. Artsy counted her among “20 Female Artists Pushing Figurative Painting Forward”; artnet News included Casteel in its list of “10 Exceptional Millennial Artists to Watch in 2016”; and Bloomberg featured her in its roundup of “10 Young Artists to Watch in 2017.” “Jordan Casteel: Harlem,” her first solo museum show, opens at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African-American Arts + Culture in Charlotte, N.C., on Jan. 28, 2017. Casey Kaplan is presenting a solo exhibition of Casteel’s work in September. The gallery also represents Kevin Beasley, another alumni of the Studio Museum in Harlem Artist-in-Residence program (2013-14). CT

VISIT Jordan Casteel’s webiste


Photo: Jordan Casteel. Photo by King Texas via


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