Barkley Hendricks (1945-2017). | Photo by Duke University, Courtesy Jack Shainman Gallery


THE NASHER MUSEUM OF ART at Duke University is celebrating the life and work of Barley L. Hendricks (1945-2017) today. The extended museum and campus community, along with the family, friends, and fans of Hendricks are gathering at the museum to pay tribute to the artist.

Hendricks, who lived and worked in New London, Conn., died April 18, 2017, from a cerebral hemorrhage. A “great friend” of the Nasher Museum, the institution presented the artist’s first career survey, “Birth of the Cool.” Long overdue, the show opened in 2008. In announcing, the memorial event, the museum noted its affinity for Hendricks: “For the next nine years, Barkley and his wife Susan visited Durham so often, they became part of the Nasher family.”

After the museum presented “Birth of the Cool” in 2008, “For the next nine years, Barkley and his wife Susan visited Durham so often, they became part of the Nasher family.”

The May 20 program includes remarks by Trevor Schoonmaker, chief curator at the Nasher Museum; Duke University Professor of Art History Richard Powell; and Cynthia Brodhead, wife of Duke president Richard Broadhead. The university has also set up a recording booth, giving attendees the opportunity to record their memories of Hendricks. The reflections will be shared online and featured on Open Studio, the Nasher Museum podcast.

Meanwhile, museum is also presenting “Barkley Hendricks: Works from the Collection,” a tribute exhibition. Six paintings and photographs by the artist from the museum’s collection, including the works shown on this page, are on view through June 18.


BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “Take All the Time You Need (Adrienne Hawkins),” 1975 (Oil on linen canvas). | Gift of Kelsey and David Lamond. 2014.6.1. Courtesy of the artist and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York, New York, Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion


ORGANIZED BY SCHOONMAKER, the “Birth of the Cool” traveled to four additional venues, brought renewed attention to Hendricks’s career, and cemented a friendship between the artist and curator. Schoonmaker shared a detailed account of his first encounter with Hendricks in an online tribute published by the museum. He called it “A Magic Meeting”:

    “In late winter or early spring of 2000 I cold-called Barkley L. Hendricks at his home in New London, Connecticut. I had been given the opportunity to curate an exhibition that summer at the Chelsea, NYC, gallery where I worked, Brent Sikkema (now Sikkema Jenkins & Co.) Barkley’s paintings had been on my mind since graduate school in the mid ’90s, when I first came across them in books by Rick Powell and Thelma Golden. I was in love with his work and wanted to show it at the gallery that summer, so I reached out to a curator friend at the Studio Museum in Harlem and asked if she would give me Barkley’s contact. She did, with the caveat that I promise not to tell him where I got his number; Barkley had a reputation for being kind of prickly. I assured her that her secret was safe, and gave Barkley a call. I was unsure what to expect, calling him out of the blue. Maybe he wouldn’t even take my call or maybe I’d get a couple of minutes to make my case. What I found on the other end of the line was a warm, generous, funny and inquisitive person with whom I shared more common interests and experiences than could have I realized. We spoke for over two hours—about his work, about music, about our experiences in Nigeria, about Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti. At the end of the conversation Barkley invited me to visit him and his wife Susan at their home. I took the train out the next weekend and spent the day with them, getting to know them and discussing Barkley’s work. It was a magical experience for a young, aspiring curator.

Years later, Schoonmaker’s acknowledgements in the “Birth of the Cool” catalog convey his gratitude toward artist. “Since then my curatorial work has been inspired by his art, and he has enriched my life with his friendship,” he writes. “It has been an honor to work with Barkley on several projects over the past eight years, but to organize with him the first historical survey of his portraits and landscapes from 1964 to 2007 has truly been an incredible experience.”


BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “View from Behind the School,” 2000 (oil on linen). | Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Barkley L. Hendricks. © Barkley L. Hendricks, Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion


In the artist’s acknowledgments, Hendricks returned the praise, effusively citing the talent of Schooonmaker and Powell, who contributed an essay to the catalog.

He says his “indebtedness” to Schoonmaker resides in the “thank-you category.” Hendricks writes, “Now there’s a name that will be a part of art history for many moons to come. Stay tuned to his channel of visions and insights.” He continues: “It has been my honor and pleasure to be a part of his visions for several exhibitions and a number of years. I look forward to many future collaborations that will bear the Schoonmaker seal of insight, hip and cool.”

About Powell, Hendricks declared the following: “Duke University has hit the double jackpot with Schoonmaker and Professor Rick Powell. Powell was the first on my art radar screen. There is, I thought, an art historian for the here and now. A scholar necessary for the times with visions crafted and honed from having an ear to the cultural shouts and raps as well as the moans and sighs. He was early on the case to see and understand, as they say, where I was coming from.” CT


On May 28, the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA) is also paying tribute to Barkley L. Hendricks. Prior to earning a BFA and MFA from Yale University, he completed a four-year certificate at PAFA (1967). The celebration of the life and work of Hendricks includes remarks by Trevor Schoonmaker, Richard Powell, and Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, among others.


BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), “North Carolina Sisters,” 1978, printed 2010 (digital chromogenic print on Kodak Endura Matte paper, edition of 3). | Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Museum purchase. © Barkley L. Hendricks, Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion


BARKLEY L. HENDRICKS (1945-2017), Detail of “Bahsir (Robert Gowens),” 1975 (oil and acrylic on canvas). | Collection of the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Museum purchase with additional funds provided by Jack Neely. © Barkley L. Hendricks, Photo by Peter Paul Geoffrion


The catalog for “Barkley L. Hendricks: Birth of the Cool” is an amazing documentation of the exhibition and the artist’s practice. It features essay contributions from Trevor Schoonmaker, who organized the exhibition at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University; Art historian Richard Powell of Duke University; and Franklin Sirmans, now director of Perez Art Museum Miami; and an interview with Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem. The volume also contains informative acknowledgements by Hendricks and a chronology that includes personal and pithy comments from the artist about his milestones and experiences over the years.


Do you enjoy and value Culture Type? Please consider supporting its ongoing production by making a donation. Culture Type is an independent editorial project that requires countless hours and expense to research, report, write, and produce. To help sustain it, make a one-time donation or sign up for a recurring monthly contribution. It only takes a minute. Many Thanks for Your Support.