This week’s news in Black art focuses on institutional changes. The National Museum of African American History and Culture has announced a new director. The David Zwirner Gallery announced a new exhibition space with a director intent on cultivating new Black talent in the commercial art world. The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston has elected its first Black president of the board of directors. These new appointments excite as each leader brings with them a track record of elevating cultural institutions.
Edward Greene Elected Board President of the Museum of Fine Arts
For the first time in its 150-year history, the Museum of Fine Arts has elected a Black president to lead its directors. Edward Greene was appointed to a three-year term on Sept. 21. Greene was appointed to develop a successful business model for the institution, especially given the new challenges resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, the museum has laid off over 100 staff members. On the challenges faced, and of the foreseeable future, Greene shares, “that’s what’s exciting in this very difficult time… we have the ability to lead from the front.”
Greene is working with the board of directors to establish plans to stabilize the institution’s fiscal and human resource capacity during this unprecedented time. Greene also shares his intent to make the museum more accessible, stating, “It’s historically been white kids who have the luxury to do unpaid internships… there’s a recognition that we need to do more and do better.” Greene’s appointment may produce new programmatic initiatives such as a paid internship program.
NMAAHC Announces Poet Kevin Young as Its New Director
On Sept. 30, the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) announced Kevin Young as its new director. Young succeeds the museum’s inaugural director, Lonnie Bunch III, who serves as the 14th secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, the first African American and historian in the role.
Young is no stranger to cultural institutions that maintain Black history and culture. He currently serves as the director of the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem. Harlem and D.C. represent two “chocolate cities,” cultural landscapes with a predominantly African American population honing cultural, political and economic capital. Young has tapped into Harlem’s rich heritage, and with eyes set on the nation’s capital, he prepares to tell a more national history.
Young has left a significant impact on the Schomburg Center. Since joining as director in 2016, he has raised over $10 million for the research center, and has assisted in acquiring Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite’s collection and the archive of musician Harry Belafonte. Under Young’s direction, Schomburg increased its visitorship by 40%, partially due to innovative programs such as the literary festival, institutional partnerships including the Studio Museum in Harlem, and guest scholars in residence.
Young is also a revered poet, best known for his 2016 book, Brown. He currently serves as the poetry editor for the New Yorker. This multi-hyphenated talent begins his role in January 2021. Museumgoers excitedly await the ways his literary interests and talents may manifest in the direction of NMAAHC, an institution early in its public life.
David Zwirner Hires Ebony L. Haynes to Lead New Black Art Space
The mega-gallery David Zwirner has hired Ebony L. Haynes to direct a new gallery space in Manhattan. Ebony L. Haynes was formerly the director of Martos Gallery and is a guest lecturer at Yale University. She intends for the space to serve as an incubator for the next generation of art workers. Haynes references the internship and residency program at the Studio Museum in Harlem as inspiration. For decades, the Studio Museum has produced Black curators, writers, artists and administrators. Yet, there remains a deficit of representation in the commercial art world.
Haynes started the role on Oct.1. The gallery space is slated to open in spring 2021. The name, address and programming have not been made public. However, Haynes intends to have the space staffed entirely by Black art workers with a paid internship program; this proclamation for such a white gallery conglomerate has caught headlines. It is not clear to the public if the space will be selling work or serving mainly as an educational exhibition space, for there is also a deficit in Black art dealers equitably enjoying the fruits of their labor.
Awol Erizku: Mystic Parallax
On Sept. 26, Awol Erizku: Mystic Parallax opened at The FLAG Art Foundation in New York City. The immersive exhibition comprises installations that embed photography, sculpture, drawings and short films. The works draw contemporary connections between African and African American culture and debunk stereotypes of the continent prevalent in the West. Born in Ethiopia, Erizku brings his experiences both from living on the continent and in the U.S. Erizku received a B.A. from Cooper Union in 2010 and his M.F.A. from Yale in 2014. Erizku has shown exhibitions at the Studio Museum in Harlem, Museum of Modern Art, and internationally. The exhibition is open from Sept. 26-Nov. 14 by appointment only.
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DON’T MISS IT
PETER WILLIAMS: Black Universe
PETER WILLIAMS: Black Universe is open until Friday, Oct. 10 at Luis De Jesus Los Angeles. In his second solo exhibition, Williams debuts works of figurative and abstracted paintings embedded with humor and incredible wonder. While the exhibition’s works pronounce a reflection and commentary on more serious subjects like structure oppression, the overarching theme is of blissful futurity.
In its press release, the gallery describes the show as “an Afrofuturist tale of a brown-skinned race that escapes to outer space in search of new planet homes and an end to the cycles of oppression from which they have been subjected. The tale that Williams has envisioned is a journey of consciousness and conscience, a metaphor for the inner and outer travels that all of us must undertake to confront the truth about race and ourselves.”
The exhibition is congruent with another Williams solo exhibition at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit and Trinosophes, open until Jan. 10, 2021. To learn more about both exhibitions, visit https://www.luisdejesus.com.
Compiled by Maleke Glee