IN THE COMING YEAR, 20 biennials and triennials are happening around the world. Documenta 14 is opening in Athens, Greece, and Kassel, Germany; the Whitney Biennial and Performa 17 are occurring in New York; and New Orleans is hosting Prospect.4. Meanwhile, artists are diversifying their practices and reaping the benefits of critical recognition. Mark Bradford is representing the United States at the Venice Biennale; Dread Scott is reenacting a slave rebellion; Chris Ofili is creating the environmental vision for MCA Chicago’s new restaurant; and important emerging and established women artists are mounting their first solo institutional surveys. With a new year underway and a compelling selection of new books, exhibitions and events on the horizon, here is what to look forward to in art by and about black people—the most-anticipated happenings and artists to watch in 2017:


In addition to the forthcoming exhibitions, Lubaina Himid’s work graces the January cover of Frieze magazine. Shown, LUBAINA HIMID, “Le Rodeur: Exchange,” 2016 | Courtesy the artist & Hollybush Gardens via Modern Art Oxford

Lubaina Himid @ Spike Island and Modern Art Oxford, UK | January-April 2017

EXHIBITIONS: After practicing for four decades, Lubaina Himid is getting her first survey treatment. The British artist who first came to prominence during the Black Arts Movement in the UK has a pair of solo shows and will be featured in a group exhibition this year. The exhibitions include: “Navigation Charts” at Spike Island in Bristol (Jan. 20-March 26); “Invisible Strategies” at Modern Art Oxford (Jan. 21-April 30); and “The Place Is Here” at Nottingham Contemporary (Feb. 4-April 30), a group exhibition titled after one of Himid’s works. A national tour of her work is also planned for this summer at Firstsite Gallery in Colchester, Essex, and Harris Museum & Art Gallery in Preston, in spring 2018.


KERRY JAMES MARSHALL, “Untitled (Studio),” 2014 (acrylic on PVC panels). | The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Purchase, The Jacques and Natasha Gelman Foundation Gift, Acquisitions Fund and The Metropolitan Museum of Art Multicultural Audience Development Initiative Gift, 2015. Photo courtesy of the artist and David Zwirner, London

Kerry James Marshall – A Creative Convening @ Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, N.Y. | Jan. 28, 2017

SYMPOSIUM: Coinciding with Kerry James Marshall‘s “Mastry” exhibition, “noted thought leaders and creative practitioners gather for a daylong exploration of radical creativity inspired by the ideas, practice, and content in the work” of Chicago-based Marshall. Presented in two sessions, this convening brings together creatives across disciplines—visual art, filmmaking, choreography, academia, food, and music. Marshall, Thelma Golden, Huey Copeland, Helen Molesworth, Ian Alteveer, and Greg Tate are among the participants, which also include Kimberly Bryant of Black Girls Code, a physicist, neuroscientist, and Olympic gold medalist.

“Here’s why I am perfectly comfortable operating within the realm of painting with the goal of entering the museum as it is currently structured: if I don’t do it, or if other people like me don’t do it, we will be condemned to celebrate European beauty and Europe’s artistic achievement in perpetuity.” — Kerry Marshall James Marshall, Culture Type

JORDAN CASTEEL, “James,” 2015 (oil on canvas). | Courtesy Anita Blanchard

“Jordan Casteel: Harlem Notes” @ Harvey B. Gantt Center, Charlotte, N.C. | Jan. 28-July 8, 2017

EXHIBITION: Fresh from her residency at the Studio Museum in Harlem (2015-16) and her new gallery representation with Casey Kaplan in New York, Jordan Casteel is presenting group of recent, large scale paintings at the Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts + Culture. During her residency, Casteel created a number of environmental portraits of men in Harlem, creating depth and dimensionality in her subjects through her deft use of color.


Baltimore bead artist Joyce J. Scott, a 2016 MacArthur Fellow, spoke at the 2016 CAA Conference. The organization describes itself as the world’s largest professional association for visual artists and art historians. | Photo via CAA Instagram

College Art Association Annual Conference @ New York Hilton, Midtown | Feb. 15-18, 2017

CONFERENCE: Under the leadership of a new executive director, CAA continues to hone its programming to meet the evolving needs and expectations of participants—retooling session schedules and bringing new voices to professional workshops and scholarly panel discussions. In addition, a number of offerings are open to the public this year, without requiring registration. Featuring more than 250 sessions spanning a wide range of mediums, eras, movements, and perspectives, distinguished artist interviews include Coco Fusco with UCLA’s Steven Nelson and several panels consider specific aspects of African American art and Black Lives Matter, as well as “Race and Representation,” “Race and Labor in the Art World,” and “Black Artists and the European Canon,” among other topics.


NINA CHANEL ABNEY, “Untitled (Yo 123),” 2015 (Unique ultrachrome pigmented print, spray paint, and acrylic on canvas). | Private collection. Courtesy of Kravets Wehby Gallery, New York, New York. © Nina Chanel Abney

“Nina Chanel Abney: Royal Flush” @ Nasher Museum of Art, Durham, N.C. | Feb. 16-July 16, 2017

EXHIBITION: Through the bold use of symbols and color Nina Chanel Abney has forged her own brand of narrative figuration. “Royal Flush” at Duke University’s Nasher Museum of Art is her first solo museum exhibition, featuring about 30 paintings, watercolors and collages and a fully illustrated catalog.


ALICE NEEL, “The Black Boys,” 1967 (oil on canvas). | The Tia Collection via David Zwirner

“Alice Neel: Uptown,” Curated by Hilton Als @ David Zwirner, New York, N.Y. | Feb. 23-April 22, 2017

EXHIBITION: Among the many portraits of family, friends, neighbors, creatives, activists, and students by Alice Neel, are paintings of African Americans and other people of color she knew and admired. Curated by Hilton Als, this exhibition features works painted over a span of five decades while Neel lived in East Harlem and just south of Harlem on the west side. She “created forthright, intimate, and, at times, humorous paintings that have both overtly and quietly engaged with political and social issues.” Portraits of Alice Childress, Horace R. Clayton Jr., and Harold Cruse, are among the works presented in the exhibition, which will travel to Victoria Miro Gallery in London and be accompanied by a catalog.

“What fascinated [Alice Neel] was the breadth of humanity that she encountered.” — Hilton Als

“James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas: The Devil and His Blues,” by David Serlin, William Ferris, Thomas J. Lax, Kinshasha Holman Conwill, Velma Allen, Jonathan Berger, and James Thomas (Karma, 152 pages). | Feb. 28, 2017

“James ‘Son Ford’ Thomas: The Devil and His Blues” by David Serlin, William Ferris, Thomas J. Lax, etal. | Feb. 28, 2017

BOOK: The largest-ever and first major institutional solo exhibition devoted to James “Son Ford” Thomas (1926-1993), a self-taught Mississippi artist and blues musician, was on view at New York University’s 80WSE Gallery in 2015. The show featured more than 100 of his small sculptures—tiny occupied coffins, fish and birds, skulls and busts with real teeth and hair—coarse depictions rich with character. Documenting the amazing presentation, this fully illustrated catalog features images of individual works and installation shots, along with writings by William Ferris, Thomas Lax, Kinshasha Holman Conwill, and Jonathan Berger, among others.


In advance of the exhibition opening, Theaster Gates will be in conversation with guest curator Sarah Newman at the museum on Feb. 26. | Photo by Max McClure via Regen Projects

“In the Tower: Theaster Gates” @ National Gallery of Art, Washington, D.C. | March 5-Sept. 4, 2017

EXHIBITION: Following Kerry James Marshall’s 2013 exhibition in the National Gallery of Art tower, Theaster Gates is presenting “The Minor Arts” in the museum’s recently reopened, renovated East Building Tower. The new body of work created for the space considers how ordinary and discarded objects “acquire value through the stories we tell.”


The symposium is in the East Building Auditorium of the National Gallery of Art. The newly renovated building was recently re-opened.

“The African American Art World in Twentieth-Century Washington, D.C.,” National Gallery of Art | March 16-17, 2017

SYMPOSIUM: The National Gallery of Art’s Center for Advanced Study in the Visual Arts is presenting a two-day Wyeth Foundation for American Art Symposium on African American art in the nation’s capital. Speakers include Tuliza Fleming, Jacqueline Francis, Lauren Haynes, Robert O’Meally, Richard J. Powell, Steven Nelson, and Jacquelyn D. Serwer. A panel of artists will feature David Driskell, Sam Gilliam and Lou Stovall.


Artists participating in the 2017 Whitney Biennial include, clockwise, from left, Deana Lawson, Pope.L, Lyle Ashton Harris, Maya Stovall, and Cauleen Smith (center.

Whitney Biennial @ Whitney Museum of American Art, New York, N.Y. | March 17-June 11, 2017

EXHIBITION: This year’s Whitney Biennial is being presented for the first time in the museum’s new Renzo Piano-designed building in the Meatpacking District. Exploring the “formation of self and the individual’s place in a turbulent society,” the exhibition is presenting the work of 63 artists and collectives including a number of emerging and mid-career African American artists, Lyle Ashton Harris, Deana Lawson, Pope.L, Cauleen Smith, Maya Stovall, and Henry Taylor, among them.


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, N.Y. | April

EXHIBITION: At the end of last year, William T. Williams joined Michael Rosenfeld. When the gallery announced its representation, it also said it planned to present a solo exhibition of the artist’s work in March, along with a fully illustrated catalog. Williams expresses personal, political and cultural narratives through abstraction. His work “ranges in style from his early geometric abstractions, to almost-monochromatic explorations of texture, to an abstraction that derives its force from productive tension among colors and forms.” READ MORE on Culture Type

“[William T.] Williams believed that abstraction offered him greater creative and expressive freedom than figural representation, but he was also wary of the potential cold, impersonal aspect of painting that was merely about painting. Williams thus developed an approach that rendered the abstract representational, not only through titles replete with autobiographical references, but also in the shapes he incorporates.”
— Michael Rosenfeld Gallery

“South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s,” by Kellie Jones (Duke University Press, 416 pages). | Scheduled to be published April 7, 2017

“South of Pico: African American Artists in Los Angeles in the 1960s and 1970s” by Kellie Jones | April 7, 2017

BOOK: Expanding on her scholarship for “Now Dig This!: Art and Black Los Angeles, 1960-1980,” art historian Kellie Jones focuses on black Los Angeles in the 1960s and 70s when artists such as Betye Saar, Charles White, Noah Purifoy, and Senga Nengudi “created a vibrant, productive, and engaged activist arts scene in the face of structural racism.”


Detail of CHRIS OFILI tapestry that will be displayed permanently at Clothworkers’ Hall after being being presented at The National Gallery. | Courtesy the artist and Victoria Miro, London © Chris Ofili. Photograph by Gautier Deblonde via The National Gallery

“Chris Ofili: Weaving Magic” @ National Gallery, London | April 26-Aug. 28, 2017

EXHIBITION: British painter Chris Ofili‘s first-ever tapestry is going on view, along with his sketches for the work, at the National Gallery in London. The vision for the tapestry “reflects Ofili’s ongoing interest in classical mythology and the stories, magic, and colour of the Trinidadian landscape he inhabits.” Commissioned by the Clothworkers’ Company, which was established nearly 500 years ago to oversee the cloth-finishing trade in London, Ofili collaborated with Dovecot Tapestry Studio, where his design was translated by master weavers into a hand-woven tapestry.


Paul R. Williams, FAIA, (shown in 1951) is the first African American architect to receive the AIA Gold Medal. He was also the first to become a member of the American Institute of Architect and the first to become a fellow of the organization. | Herald Examiner Collection, Los Angeles Public Library

Paul R. Williams, FAIA, AIA Gold Medal, American Institute of Architects | April 27-29, 2016

AWARD: Los Angeles architect Paul Revere Williams, FAIA (1894-1980), whose groundbreaking career boasts many firsts, is being presented with the AIA Gold Medal posthumously at the American Institute of Architects annual conference in Orlando. He is the first African American to receive the medal, which pays tribute to “an individual whose significant body of work has had a lasting influence on the theory and practice of architecture.” Williams’s portfolio includes more than 3,000 projects including prized public and private properties and stately residences for Hollywood legends.


lynette yiadom-boakye - complication
LYNETTE YIADOM-BOAKYE, “Complication,” 2013 (oil on canvas). | Courtesy of the artist, Corvi-Mora, London, and Jack Shainman Gallery

“Lynette Yiadom-Boakye” @ New Museum, New York, N.Y. | May 3-Sept. 3, 2017

EXHIBITION: Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, a British-born painter with a West African background, is presenting a selection of her portraits of imagined figures at the New Museum in an exhibition that will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalog.


Mark Bradford in Venice. Photo by Christopher Bedford
Following the historic tenure of Okwui Enwezor in 2015, the first black artistic director of the Venice Biennale, Los Angeles-based artist Mark Bradford is poised to represent the United States at the 2017 Venice Biennale. | Photo by Christopher Bedford, Courtesy Rose Art Museum

Mark Bradford @ 57th Venice Biennale, Italy | May 13-Nov. 26, 2017

EXHIBITION: Mark Bradford is representing the United States at the 2017 Venice Biennale, the international art exhibition that debuted in 1895. Recognized for his sweeping abstract canvases, his layered mix-media paintings raise and explore important social justice issues. Commissioned by curators Christopher Bedford, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, and Katy Siegel, a professor and endowed chair in Modern American Art at Stony Brook University and a senior programming and research curator at the Baltimore museum, Bradford will present new works in the U.S. Pavilion.


“Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street Style,” by Shantrelle P. Lewis (Aperture, 144 pages). | May 30, 2017

“Dandy Lion: The Black Dandy and Street Style” by Shantrelle P. Davis | May 30, 2017

BOOK: Exploring the intersection of black culture, masculinity, and fashion this volume documents the history of black dandyism. Fully illustrated, it is rife with images of what the author calls “high-styled rebels,” black men with a penchant for bold colors and mixed prints and “presents and celebrates individual dandy personalities, designers and tailors, movements and events that define contemporary dandyism.”


MCA Chicago is redesigning its building within the existing footprint to make it a livelier more creative museum space, including a new vision by artist Chris Ofili for the street-accessible restaurant (1). | via MCA Chicago

Chris Ofili, Site-Specific Commission @ Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago | Summer 2017

RESTARUANT: Turner Prize-winning artist Chris Ofili is creating the environmental vision for MCA Chicago’s redesigned restaurant. His first museum commission in the United States is a large-scale, site specific mural that will influence the look and feel throughout the space.

“Really, the entire restaurant is his commission. [Chris Ofili] will have a hand in all surfaces, from the patterning of the leather banquettes to the glass of the dining room doors. And the mural will be the basis for the palette of the rest of the restaurant.”
— MCA Director Madeleine Grynsztejn, New York Times


FRANK BOWLING, “Who’s Afraid of Barney Newman,” 1968 (oil on canvas). | Tate. © Frank Bowling via Tate Modern

“Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power” @ Tate Modern, London | July 12-Oct. 22, 2017

EXHIBITION: Exploring a defining era in African American art production that spans 1963-83, this exhibition considers “how the category ‘Black Art’ was defined, rejected and redefined by artists across the United States.” Many works by Romare Bearden, Norman Lewis, Lorraine O’Grady and Betye Saar, among others, are presented for the first time in the UK, alongside paintings by Frank Bowling, the British Guyanese artist who spent most of his career in New York.


NJIDEKA AKUNYILI CROSBY, “Mama, Mummy and Mamma (Predecessors #2), 2014 (acrylic, color pencils, charcoal, and transfer paper). | Courtesy New Church Museum, Cape Town, South Africa, via Tang Teaching Museum

“Open 30 – Njideka Akunyili Crosby: Predecessors” @ Contemporary Arts Center in Cincinnati, Ohio | July 14-Aug 1, 2017

EXHIBITION: In large-scale, mixed-media paintings exploring ordinary domestic life, Njideka Akunyili Crosby “plays with and subverts preconceived notions of Western art history by including portraits of her African family, material references to her Igbo tribe’s customs, and images of Nigeria’s British colonial past.” Co-organized with the Frances Young Tang Teaching Museum at Skidmore College (where it opens in October), the exhibition unites for the first time “Predecessors,” her portrait series paying homage to her family and Nigerian roots.

“Often people have a singular view about Nigeria and Africa. But problems of misrepresentation happen when people tell your story for you.” — Njideka Akunyili Crosby


ALMA THOMAS (1891-1978), “Pink Dogwoods and Azaleas,” 1971 (oil on canvas). | © Charles Thomas Lewis, Photography by Ian Reeves, Courtesy Ogden Museum of Art

“Solidary and Solitary: The Pamela J. Joyner and Alfred J. Giuffrida Collection” @ Ogden Museum of Southern Art, New Orleans | Sept. 30, 2017-Jan. 21, 2018

EXHIBITION: Following the fall publication of “Four Generations: The Joyner Giuffrida Collection of Abstract Art,” which documents Joyner/Giuffrida collection, this show draws from the private holdings, presenting work from the 1940s to the present. The exhibition “celebrates the achievement of individual artists, the collective history told by their art, and the social changes that have changed the way we understand art history in the broadest sense.”


Brooke Anderson is executive director of Prospect.4, and the Nasher Museum’s Trevor Schoonmaker is artistic director. Franklin Sirmans, now director of the Perez Art Museum Miami, served as artistic director of the citywide New Orleans exhibition in 2015. | Photo by J Caldwell for Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, Courtesy Nasher Museum

Prospect 4 New Orleans | Nov. 11, 2017-Feb. 25, 2018

EXHIBITION: Trevor Schoonmaker, curator of contemporary art at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University, is the artistic director of the latest iteration of Prospect New Orleans opening in November, which coincides with New Orleans’s tricentennial celebration. Schoonmaker’s vision for Prospect.4, a months-long citywide, international art exhibition, will be buoyed by insights from a special council of seven curators and artists, including William Cordova, Wangechi Mutu, Ebony G. Patterson, and Zoe Whitley.

“The rich diversity of New Orleans has developed over a long history of colonization, the trans-Atlantic slave trade, waves of migration and displacement, and Gulf Coast trade routes buoyed by the city’s position as the American South’s largest port. Artists in Prospect.4 will explore many of these histories and themes and how they relate to contemporary geographical and cultural settings around the world.”
— Trevor Schoonmaker, Prospect 4 Artistic Director

For his monumental commission in the Hirshhorn’s cylindrical gallery, Mark Bradford is delving into the Smithsonian’s archives to learn more about the contributions of women in the Civil Rights Movement. | Photo by Fredrik Nilsen, Courtesy the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Mark Bradford, Site-Specific Commission @ Hirshhorn Museum, Washington, D.C. | November 2017

INSTALLATION: Los Angeles artist Mark Bradford is creating a suite of site-specific paintings on the third floor of the Smithsonian museum where the work will occupy the entire circumference of the curved galleries. The new 360-degree work focusing on the overlooked female voices of the Civil Rights Movement is Bradford’s first in Washington and, spanning nearly 400 feet, will be the largest he has ever created.


The reenactment will unfold along a route where sugar plantations have been replaced by big box stores, trailer parks, refineries, and gated communities.

Dread Scott, Slave Rebellion Reenactment, New Orleans | November

PERFORMANCE: This fall, artist Dread Scott plans to walk 26 miles with an army of volunteers in period costumes. The group is reenacting a little known moment in history—the 1811 German Coast Uprising in Louisiana—the largest uprising of enslaved people in the United States. Slaves organized a revolt against white slaveholders, taking up arms to seize Orleans territory in a quest for their own emancipation, but also to end slavery. Scott envisions a two-day procession of 500 black people armed with sabers and muskets, many mounted on horses, bound for New Orleans.

“Artists have a relative luxury of being able to work with ideas and therefore I think I have a real responsibility to stand with humanity and make work that hopefully embodies people’s biggest dreams and aspirations for radical, fundamental change on some of the big questions confronting us all. I tell people I make revolutionary art to propel history forward.” — Dread Scott

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