This December/January 2018 cover of Paris Vogue conjures the style of Mickalene Thomas, but the image was created by Juergen Teller.

The following review of the past week or so presents a snapshot of the latest news in African American art and related culture:

The benefactor behind Anonymous Was a Woman, which over the past 22 years has provided $5.5 million in grants to 220 female artists over the age of 40, is no longer unknown. Artist Susan Unterberg, 77, has revealed herself and explained why she wanted to help her peers. Over the years, recipients of the $25,000 award have included Xenobia Bailey, Chakaia Booker, Sonya Clark, Kira Lynn Harris, Maren Hassinger, Simone Leigh, Beverly McIver, Senga Nengudi, Lorraine O’Grady, Howardena Pindell, Alison Saar, Betye Saar, Joyce Scott, Lorna Simpson, Renee Stout, Mickalene Thomas, Carrie Mae Weems, and Deborah Willis. In 2017, 10 more artists were selected, including Stefanie Jackson, Jennie C. Jones, and Amy Sherald, and four artists in their 70s and 80s.

Paris Vogue commissioned Juergen Teller to photograph Rihanna for its December/January 2018 issue. The resulting cover shot and interior images blatantly appropriate the work of Mickalene Thomas. The offense, which is abuzz on Twitter, apparently received no notable public scrutiny for more than six months. Read more here and here.

Advertising executive Set Free Richardson and Yasiin Bey (better known as Mos Def, the actor and rapper) are opening a Bronx art gallery called The Compound. Respected figures in the world of hip hop, the two envision a space where art, music, sports, and fashion intersect.

Viewed more than 87 million times, Beyoncé and Jay-Z‘s wildly popular “Apeshit” video has inspired a special tour. The Louvre now offers a 90-minute self-guided tour (French only for now) showcasing major attractions throughout the Paris museum that are featured in the video by the Carters. Apparently this has happened before. The museum has also programmed a tour based on’s 2016 reprise of “Smile Mona Lisa.” Meanwhile, Beyonce has set her sights on shooting a forthcoming video at another European landmark— the Colosseum in Rome.

21c Museum Hotels opened its eighth location in Kansas City, Mo., on July 17, bringing the city’s historic Savoy Hotel and Grill back to life. The boutique hotel chain describes itself as “North America’s only multi-venue museum dedicated to collecting and exhibiting art of the 21st century.” The hotels display contemporary art and present special exhibitions. “Refuge,” the new Kansas City hotel’s inaugural show, explores contemporary migration and features artists from around the world, including Nick Cave (Chicago, U.S.A.), Kcho (Cuba), Hew Locke (United Kingdom), and Mohau Modisakeng (South Africa).


Since 1851, the New York Times has been publishing obituaries of people who have made important contributions to society. The vast majority of the subjects have been white men. The newspaper’s Overlooked project seeks to tell the stories of countless figures who have been ignored over the past nearly 170 years—women and people of color, in particular. Edmonia Lewis, the first black sculptor to achieve international recognition, is the latest to be featured. Believed to be born near Albany, N.Y. in 1844, Lewis was of West Indian and Chippewa ancestry. She lived most of her life in Rome and found the constant focus on her race, rather than her work, to be a mixed blessing.

“Driven and canny, [Edmonia] Lewis was a deft self-promoter, tweaking her story for her audience — sometimes performing the naïf, sometimes the sophisticated lady of the world. Her variations on her own life story would bedevil those who studied her decades after her death.”
— Penelope Green, The New York Times

Curatorial Appointments: From left, Kelli Morgan accepted a position at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields; Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba recently joined the New Orleans Museum of Art; and Vera Grant is headed to the University of Michigan Museum of Art.


Dr. Monroe E. Harris Jr. (at right), is the new president of the board of trustees for the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts (VMFA) in Richmond, Va. He was elected July 1. In its announcement, VMFA explicitly noted that Monroe is the first African American to hold the position in the museum’s 82-year history. Moreover, he is likely among the first in the nation to head the board of a major mainstream art museum. A Richmond-based oral and maxillofacial surgeon, Monroe has served on the VMFA board for five years and has also been active on the boards of other local cultural institutions.

Vera Grant is trading Harvard University for the University of Michigan. She has been named deputy director of curatorial affairs and curator of modern and contemporary art at the University of Michigan Museum of Art in Ann Arbor. Previously, Grant was director of the Ethelbert Cooper Gallery of African & African American Art at Harvard University’s Hutchins Center.

Kelli Morgan was appointed associate curator of American Art at the Indianapolis Museum of Art at Newfields. A Detroit native who has held curatorial and scholarly positions at a variety of institutions, Morgan recently earned a Ph.D. in Afro-American Studies and a graduate certificate in Public History – Museum Studies from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) named Ndubuisi C. Ezeluomba the Françoise Billion Richardson Curator of African Art. Originally from Benin City, Nigeria, Ezeluomba joins NOMA after serving as the Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Research Specialist in African Art at VMFA.

Scheduled to open in 2021, the next New Museum Triennial will be co-curated by Jamillah James and Margot Norton. The international exhibition is dedicated to presenting the work of emerging artists from around the world. Norton is curator at the New Museum and James is curator at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles.

The New Museum in New York named V. Mitch McEwen curator of IdeasCity, an annual initiative that “explores the future of cities with culture as a driving force” through enterprising gatherings, projects, and exhibitions. McEwen is principal and cofounder of A(n) Office, a collaborative of design studios based in Detroit and New York and she is also a professor of architecture at Princeton University.


The Archives of American Art announced on July 18 that the papers of Washington, D.C.-based artist Alma Thomas (1891-1978) have been fully digitized. Measuring 5.5 linear feet, the physical archive has been converted to 6,741 images. Dating 1894-2001, the collection includes “biographical material, letters, notes and writings, personal business records, exhibition files, printed materials, scrapbooks, photographs, an audio recording, and two video recordings.”

The National Trust for Historic Preservation announced the formation of a new $25 million African American Cultural Heritage Action Fund. The goal of the multiyear initiative is to shine a light on “the largely overlooked contributions of African Americans by protecting and restoring African American historic sites and uncovering hidden stories of African Americans connected to historic sites across the nation.”

Jamaican-born mixed-media artist Ebony G. Patterson is crowdfunding “Called Up,” a new public art project. She is filling a defunct public pool in Swope Park in Kansas City, Mo., with flowers, toys, candy, and more, and raising $15,000 on Kickstarter to fund four custom-made gold benches to surround the pool. Her desire is to “recognize the space for the neighborhood and community to meet, relax, pause, and bear witness to the site and its history.”

“My hope through this work is to acknowledge the life of this site and the life of so many it once held in a moment of reverence—to create presence in a moment of absence.” — Ebony G. Patterson

Ebony G. Patterson is raising funds to support a public art project in Kansas City, Mo. | Video by Ebony G. Patterson


89 artists working across a range of disciplines are the latest recipients of NYSCA/NYFA Fellowships, which are administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts. Allison Janae Hamilton, Derek Fordjour, Abbesi Akhamie, Steffani Jemison, and Ekwa Msangi, are among the 2018 fellows. Seminars are being held this summer and fall for artist interested in learning about 2019 opportunities.

Kevin Sampson was named the first-ever artist-in-residence at Mystic Seaport Museum in Mystic, Conn. The former police officer and police sketch artist from Newark, N.J., will be living aboard a vessel docked at the seaport this summer.

The winners of the 2018 Chicago Artadia Awards are Derrick Woods-Morrow and Leonard Suryajaya. The two artists were chosen from a group of five finalists, Bethany Collins and Brendan Fernandes, among them. Three jurors, including Darby English, a professor of art history at the University of Chicago, conducted studio visits and selected the finalists. Jordan Carter, assistant curator of Contemporary Art at the Art Institute of Chicago, participated in the second round of evaluations with English.

“Derrick Woods-Morrow poetically gives form to childhood memories, fleeting sexual encounters, and transitory leisure spaces such as beaches and coastlines.” — Curator Jordan Carter


The Association of Art Museum Directors announced a paid internship program for undergraduate students from underrepresented groups that is designed to engender career opportunities in the art museum field. Made possible by a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, the internships are expected to begin in late-spring 2019.

A new Alma Thomas Scholarship has been inaugurated by the Washington Studio School. The school offers drawing, painting, and sculpture classes to adults and high school students and is “committed to ensuring arts education is accessible to talented students regardless of economic background.” Those eligible for the scholarship include District of Columbia residents from historically underrepresented communities, particularly those who identify as people of color, and attend the University of District of Columbia, Howard University, or a D.C. public high school or charter school. The application deadline is Sept. 1. CT


Over the years, a few books have considered the life and work of Edmonia Lewis. “Child of the Fire: Mary Edmonia Lewis and the Problem of Art History’s Black and Indian Subject” is by Kirsten Pai Buick, a professor of art history at the University of New Mexico who is quoted in the New York Times Overlooked article about the artist. “Edmonia Lewis: Wildfire in Marble” by Rinna Evelyn Wolfe, also documents the sculptor’s life. For young readers, “Stone Mirrors: The Sculpture and Silence of Edmonia Lewis” was published earlier this year. Accompanying the exhibition organized by the Tang Teaching Museum and Studio Museum in Harlem, “Alma Thomas” features more than 125 vibrant, colorful paintings and works on paper, many published for the first time, a preface by Thelma Golden, scholarly essays, and responses to Thomas’s work by four contemporary artists.


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