Installation view of “Halter” (2019) by Eric N. Mack at Desert X

The following review of the past week or so presents a snapshot of the latest news in African American art and related black culture:
Harvard Sued for Profiting From Images of Slaves

Tamara Lanier of Norwich, Conn., is suing Harvard for “wrongful seizure, possession and expropriation” of two photos of South Carolina slaves, accusing the university of profiting from licensing fees charged for the reproduction of the 1850 daguerreotypes that she says depict her ancestors. The lawsuit was filed March 20. Read More here and here

Eric N. Mack’s Desert X Installation Mysteriously Disappeared

“Halter” a series of stretched and draped fabrics by artist Eric N. Mack has disappeared. One of 14 works featured in Desert X, the installation was on view at an abandoned gas station near the Salton Sea in the Coachella Valley. Fire was involved in the apparent vandalism and possible theft. The local sheriff’s department is investigating. Located in the California desert in the Palm Springs area, Desert X runs from Feb. 9-April 21.

“I am overwhelmed by the news that my work ‘Halter’ was vandalized, burned and stolen from its Desert X site yesterday. As I process the loss of this artwork…I am only pacified by knowing that many visitors experienced and appreciated it as it was.” Eric N. Mack

Frieze Sculpture Will Feature Works by Nick Cave and Ibrahim Mahama

A new public art initiative, Frieze Sculpture will present works by 14 artists at Rockefeller Center in New York City. Nick Cave, Ibrahim Mahama, and Hank Willis Thomas are among the artists whose works will be in view April 25-June 28, 2019, coinciding with the Frieze New York art fair (May 2-5).

Hirshhorn Adds 30 New Acquisitions, Works by Sam Gilliam Among Them

The Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden announced 30 new acquisitions. About one-third of the works are a gift from the shuttered Corcoran Gallery of Art, including two works by Sam Gilliam—“Light Depth,” a 1969 drape painting, and a more recent work “Level One” (1994). The Smithsonian museum is also adding “Anthology 2014-2016” (2014-2016) by Tony Lewis to its collection. The installation, composed of 34 original collage-poems inspired by “Calvin and Hobbes,” was on view at the Hirshhorn last year.


SAM GILLIAM, “Light Depth,” 1969 (acrylic on canvas). | Courtesy Corcoran Gallery of Art. Gift from the Trustees of the Corcoran Gallery of Art (Museum Purchase, Gallery Fund), 2018

Larry Ossei-Mensah Named Guest Curator at Brooklyn Academy of Music

The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) announced its first space dedicated to visual art exhibitions and the appointment of Larry Ossei-Mensah who will serve as guest curator of the gallery. Named in honor of BAM Trustee Beth Rudin DeWoody, the Rudin Family Gallery is part of BAM Strong, a major institutional project scheduled to launch in October 2019 that includes building improvements, expanded programming, improved audience accessibility and affordability, and a greater commitment to visual art.

Thelma Golden Joins Mellon Foundation Board

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation’s Board of Trustees announced movements within its body, including the election of Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem, as a new member of the board.

African Art Museum Appoints Charlotte Ashamu to Advancement Post

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C., named Charlotte Ashamu associate director of advancement and external affairs. Her portfolio includes partnerships, fundraising, and communications.

Artists Otobong Nkanga and Emeka Ogboh Win Sharjah Biennial Prize

The top prize at the Sharjah Biennial 14 (March 7-June 10) went to Nigerian artists Otobong Nkanga and Emeka Ogboh, who were recognized for “Aging Ruins Dreaming Only to Recall the Hard Chisel from the Past” (2019), a collaborative sound and light installation.

Diedrick Brackens Wins Los Angeles Artadia Award

Three Los Angeles artists received 2019 Artadia awards. Diedrick Brackens was distinguished among the group, winning the Marciano Artadia Award, which includes a $25,000 prize. Brackens, a textile artist recognized for his tapestries and weaving techniques, is having a moment. After being featured in Made in L.A. 2018, he was awarded the Studio Museum in Harlem’s 2018 Joyce Alexander Wein Artist Prize in October. His first exhibition with Various Small Fires is currently on view in Los Angeles and the gallery is presenting a solo presentation of his work at Frieze New York in May.

Studio Museum’s Artist-in-Residence Program Applications Due Soon

The Studio Museum in Harlem is looking for the next cohort of artists-in-residence. The deadline to apply for the 2019–20 program is coming soon. Applications are due April 1.

Kehinde Wiley Launched a New Residency Program in Dakar

Black Rock Senegal is a new multi-disciplinary residency program envisioned by artist Kehinde Wiley. Announced last week, the program’s inaugural year runs from June 2019 through February 2020. Residents are invited for one- to three-month stays. The application deadline is April 15. CT


Lawyers for Tamara Lanier explain the grounds for her lawsuit against Harvard University. | Video by AP


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