Latest News in Black Art features news updates and developments in the world of art and related culture

Aritist and Designer Virgil Abloh (1980-2021). | Photo by Katrina Wittkamp, Courtesy MCA Chicago


Virgil Abloh, the trailblazing designer and inveterate collaborator who made historic strides in the fashion world and provided opportunities for the next generation of Black creatives to follow in his footsteps, died on Nov. 28 in Chicago. He was 41. For two years, Abloh battled cardiac angiosarcoma, a rare form of cancer. The artistic director of menswear at Louis Vuitton and founder of his own label, Off-White, Abloh bridged the worlds of art and design. In college, he studied civil engineering and earned a master’s degree in architecture from the Illinois Institute of Technology. He designed furniture and was an international DJ. “Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech,” the museum exhibition dedicated to his expansive portfolio, explored his many designs, products, partnerships, and creative processes over two decades. After opening at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago in 2019, the show traveled to the High Museum of Art in Atlanta. On Dec. 1, Abloh’s last runway show with Louis Vuitton was presented posthumously in Miami, Fla. It was called “Virgil Was Here.” (See video at bottom of page.) | New York Times

Robert Farris Thompson (1932-2021), the renowned art historian and pioneering scholar of African and Afro-Atlantic art, died on Nov. 29. He was 88. A professor emeritus of African American studies and the former Colonel John Trumbull Professor of the History of Art, Thompson served for more than five decades on the faculty at Yale. He contributed to numerous books and was the author of many of his own, including the seminal volume “Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy,” first published in 1984. A new publication, “Mambo, is forthcoming posthumously. Harvard University Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr., is among many scholars who benefitted from Thompson’s guidance. “Robert Farris Thompson will always have the distinction of pioneering the study of African art as an academic field within the discipline of the history of art,” Gates told Yale News. “Before Bob earned his Ph.D. in Yale’s art history department, African art was generally regarded as being of anthropological interest, primarily. Bob’s work did more to institutionalize the study of Black art than any other scholar’s work before his. When I was a graduate student at the University of Cambridge in 1973, and asked my professor, Wole Soyinka, himself an expert on Yoruba culture and a member of the Yoruba ethnic group, for the best study of Yoruba art and mythology, to my amazement, he handed me a copy of Bob’s now classic work, ‘Black Gods and Kings!’”

IMAGE: Above left, Robert Farris Thompson. | Courtesy Yale


Los Angeles artist Umar Rashid joined Blum & Poe. For nearly two decades, Rashid has been chronicling “the grand historical fiction of the Frenglish Empire (1648-1880),” a parallel world “that often recalls our own fraught histories—both canonized and marginalized—with familiar signifiers and iconographies that channel the visual lexicons of hip hop, ancient and modern pop culture, gang and prison life, and revolutionary movements throughout time.” His first solo show with the gallery is currently on view in Los Angeles through Dec. 18. “En Garde / On God” features new paintings, drawings, and sculpture.

Eric N. Mack is now represented by Paula Cooper Gallery. An immersive installation, “Eric Mack: Landlord” is currently on view in the gallery’s vitrine. “Lucky,” a new work by the artist was also featured in Paula Cooper’s⁠ booth at Art Basel Miami Beach. Mack lives and works in New York.

Engage Projects in Chicago announced its representation of Derrick Woods-Morrow, a multidisciplinary artist working in photography, sculpture, installation, and performance. He describes his work as “a meditation on deviation and disruption, on language and representation—on growing up in the American South.” Chicago-based Woods-Morrow hails from Greensboro, N.C.


Artist Sanford Biggers. | Photo by Justin Lubke

Awards & Honors

New York-based conceptual artist Sanford Biggers won the Heinz Award for the Arts. Biggers was recognized for “creating a multifaceted body of work that grapples with the interplay of culture, history and modern society in new and powerful ways.” Administered by the Heinz Family Foundation of Pittsburgh in memory of John Heinz, the award includes a $250,000 prize and a Heinz Awards medallion.


Janet Rollé is the new CEO and executive director of American Ballet Theater (ABT) in New York. The appointment is historic. Rollé is the first person of color to lead the ballet company. She has served as general manager of Beyonce’s Parkwood Entertainment since 2016. Previously, Rollé was executive vice president and chief marketing officer at CNN Worldwide and she has also held prominent positions at BET Networks, AOL, MTV Networks, and HBO. She officially starts at ABT on Jan. 3, 2022. | New York Times

The African American Museum in Philadelphia (AAMP) recently welcomed a new president and CEO. Ashley Jordan is the museum’s new leader. Previously, she served as senior director of development at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati. Jordan officially joined AAMP in September.


NEWS | Born in St. Louis, Mo., Josephine Baker, the legendary dancer and civil rights activist, made a home and built a family in France, where she was beloved. | Video by NBC Today

More News

In Paris, Josephine Baker (1906-1975) became the first Black woman to be enshrined at the Pantheon, France’s hallowed tomb of heroes. | New York Times


The Drawing Center in New York is accepting applications for its new teen program called Drawing All-Stars. The free, pre-professional program for high school students in grades 9-11 “encourages teens to expand their drawing practices, amplify their artistic ambitions, and nurture their creative endeavors in a team setting.” Applications due Dec. 23, 2021. | More Info


LIVES | A beautiful tribute to his vision and creativity, men’s artistic director Virgil Abloh (1980-2021) presented his last runway show with Louis Vuitton posthumously on Dec. 1 in Miami. “Virgil Was Here” featured the Spring/Summer 2022 Collection. | Video by Louis Vuitton


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