This Week in Black Art and Culture: Virgil Abloh, Kimberly Drew, and the Academy Awards

Above: Anjanue Ellis

This week in Black art and culture, the nominations for this year’s Academy Awards were announced, and we assess BIPOC representation. Illustrator Ashley Bryan has died at the age of 98. Gina Duncan will lead the Brooklyn Academy of Music as president. Kimberly Drew has been named Associate Director of Pace Gallery. The late Virgil Abloh will be honored with a retrospective at the Brooklyn Museum. 

Academy Awards BIPOC Representation

With members submitting ballots from 82 countries, the Academy had its highest-ever voter participation in its history this year. Will Smith (King Richard) and Denzel Washington (The Tragedy of Macbeth) for Best Actor, and Ariana DeBose (West Side Story) and Aunjanue Ellis (King Richard) for Best Supporting Actress are the only BIPOC actors nominated in acting categories this year, two fewer Black people than last year. The Best Actress and Best Supporting Actor nominations are all white. 

If Washington wins the award for the tennis drama, he will be the first Black actor to win the award twice. With a total of six nominations, King Richard received the seventh most nominations for a single film. Tim White, Trevor White and Will Smith, all of whom are producers, all have been nominated for Best Picture for the first time. Smith also is up for Best Actor in a Leading Role for his work in the film. 

Aunjanue Ellis, who played Oracene “Brandy” Williams, is competing for her first Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her role in the film. For the first time, Zach Baylin, who authored the screenplay for King Richard, is nominated for Original Screenplay. Beyoncé’s nomination for Best Original Song is her first, and a nomination for Best Film Editing raise the total to six. 

DeBose was nominated for Best Supporting Actress for West Side Story. Coincidentally, Rita Moreno was nominated in this category for the identical role 60 years before. DeBose becomes the first openly LGBT woman of color to receive an Oscar nomination and the second Afro-Latino actor to do so. She and Kristen Stewart (Spencer) are also the first openly queer actors to receive an Oscar nomination in the same year. DuBose would become the first queer woman of color to win an Academy Award if she won. 

Mike Marino, Stacey Morris and Carla Farmer’s makeup and hairstyling for Coming 2 America received a nomination. Questlove of The Roots is nominated for Best Original Documentary for his directorial debut Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised). Danny Glover and Samuel Jackson will be honored at the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ annual Governors Awards. The annual event will take place at the Dolby Theatre at Hollywood & Highland Center in Hollywood, produced by Will Packer on Sunday, March 27, and will be broadcast live on ABC and in more than 200 countries. 

Children’s Author Ashley Bryan Dies at 98

Ashley Bryan, an award-winning children’s book author and illustrator, fine artist, and educator noted for his lively retellings of folktales and spirituals rooted in the Black oral tradition, died quietly in Texas on February 4. He lived to be 98 years old. He was best known for Dancing Granny, Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum Beautiful Blackbird, and Freedom Over Me: Eleven Slaves, Their Lives and Dreams Brought to Life. 

Bryan was born in Harlem on July 13, 1923 to parents who emigrated from the British West Indies (now Antigua) after World War I. Mr. Bryan painted linoleum block prints, collage pieces, hand puppets and intricate stained-glass windows made from sea glass that washed ashore near his home on Little Cranberry Island, overlooking Acadia National Park in Maine, over six decades. Beat the Story-Drum, Pum-Pum, which featured woodcut images, earned him the first of four Coretta Scott King Illustrator Awards. 

Bryan was awarded a Newbery Honor in 2017 for his book Freedom Over Me. He was the U.S. nominee for the Hans Christian Andersen Award in 2006. For his contributions to children’s literature, he earned two lifetime achievement awards: the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 2009 and the Coretta Scott King-Virginia Hamilton Award in 2012. He also taught at the Dalton School and Queens College in New York, Philadelphia College of Art, and Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, where he retired in 1988 as an emeritus professor of art. Along with writers Edward Albee, Nora Ephron and Salman Rushdie, he was named a “Library Lion” by the New York Public Library in 2008. 

Brooklyn Academy of Music Names Gina Duncan Director

BAM Board Chair Nora Ann Wallace announced on Feb. 8 that Gina Duncan has been named the organization’s next president. Duncan formerly served as the organization’s first vice president of cinema and strategic programming. The program thrived under her supervision, and The New York Times hailed it as an “essential” component of the New York film landscape for its novel approach to repertory programming that focused on marginalized voices in cinema. 

Gina returns to BAM after serving as the Sundance Institute’s production director since September 2021. She oversaw the online and in-person production of the Sundance Film Festival and the Institute’s year-round operations. She was a key player in the Institute’s financial and artistic planning and control as producing director. She has produced film, television and theater for artists Titus Kaphar, Ja’tovia Gary, and comedian Mike Birbiglia, and has worked as a film and community programmer at Jacob Burns Film Center. 

Duncan began her career with NFL Films, where she won a Sports Emmy Award for her work on HBO’s Inside the NFL in 2004. She serves on the board of directors of SPACE on Ryder Farm, the advisory board of Jacob Burns Cinema Center’s Creative Culture Fellowship, and the editorial advisory board of SEEN, BlackStar Projects’ film and visual culture journal. 

“We saw Gina’s extraordinary leadership skills firsthand during her four years steering BAM’s film and strategic programming initiatives,” reads a statement from the organization. “She has the ability to bring people together toward clear goals, and she understands that BAM must always evolve in order to nurture new audiences and champion innovative programming.” 

Kimberly Drew to Join Pace Gallery as an Associate Director

Above: Kimberly Drew. Photo from Instagram.

Curator and writer Kimberly Drew, co-editor of the anthology Black Futures and author of This Is What I Know About Art, will join Pace Gallery as an associate director. Drew worked as the social media manager at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York from 2015 to 2018 and has worked at the Studio Museum in Harlem and the Lehmann Maupin gallery. Joining the sales team of a worldwide gallery signals the beginning of a new chapter in her career. 

Drew will join the gallery as an associate director in New York, with permanent sites in London, Hong Kong, Seoul, Geneva and Palo Alto. Drew has gained notoriety over the last decade for a number of writing projects, including the popular Tumblr Black Contemporary Art; Black Futures (2020), a book co-edited with Jenna Wortham that explores “what it means to be Black and alive,” and This Is What I Know About Art (2020), a book about art and protest aimed at young adults. 

Drew said, “There’s an infrastructure that galleries provide for artists that I haven’t gotten an opportunity to get close to or be a part of,” She continued, “I want to be in an artist’s structural support system in a concrete way, because I am a traditional person at heart.” 

Several promos also were launched by the gallery. Jessica Mostow and Kaelan Kleber, who formerly were associate directors at Pace, have been promoted as directors, while Erin Sigoloff, a sales assistant, has been promoted to associate director. Pace announced these appointments and advancements just a week after announcing intentions to merge with Kayne Griffin gallery and launch a Los Angeles location. 

Marc Glimcher, Pace’s president and CEO said in a statement, “Kimberly has an exceptional track record as a creative thinker, and we could not be more excited to welcome her to Pace, where we value original approaches across all aspects of the organization. A writer, activist, and curator, Kimberly has already left her mark on the art world through various contributions which have helped amplify the voices of Black artists and creators.” 

The Late Virgil Abloh To Be Honored at the Brooklyn Museum

Virgil Abloh, the late fashion designer and creative genius, will be honored at the Brooklyn Museum this summer with a version of the first institutional study dedicated to him. The exhibition, titled Virgil Abloh: Figures of Speech, will expand on a previous display of the same name that debuted at the MCA Chicago in 2019 and then toured the ICA Boston, the High Museum in Atlanta, and Qatar Museums. 

More than 100,000 people attended the show just two and a half months after it debuted in Abloh’s hometown of Illinois, and the exhibition dates were extended to satisfy the demand. Antwaun Sargent, a writer and curator, is organizing the exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, which will be Abloh’s first museum show since his death in November at the age of 41. Figures of Speech will present Abloh’s artistic vision in his own words. 

Abloh was a trendsetter in the fashion scene and a personality in both action and words, known for integrating text with fabrics. In what was previously a mid-career show turned retrospective, the exhibit will re-examine Abloh’s prodigious corpus of work in what was formerly a mid-career exhibition turned retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago under the same name in 2019. The exhibit, which will debut on July 1 and run through Jan. 29, 2023, will highlight Abloh’s effects beyond his years and continue the discourse he started throughout his career.

Compiled by Sumaiyah E. Wade

You May Also Like