This Week in Black Art: Designer Lamont “Tory” Stapleton Accuses Balenciaga of Stealing his Design, Prospect New Orleans Triennial is to be Organized by Ebony G. Patterson and Miranda Lash and more

This Week in Black Art and Culture is Sponsored by The Children’s Trust


The Virgil Abloh award is created in collaboration with Harlem’s Fashion Row and LVMH. Gaëtane Verna is named executive director of the Wexner Center for the Arts, Columbus, Ohio. Read more in This Week in Black Art and Culture. 

Designer Lamont Stapleton Accuses Balenciaga of Copying His Design

Designer Lamont Stapleton has accused Balenciaga of copying one of his designs. Stapleton turned to social media to explain to his fans the context and inspiration for his “Struggle is Common” apparel collection, which includes a black crew neck with the word “Free.” Stapleton’s Instagram post highlighted his 2019 apparel-line launch, “Struggle is Common.”

The designer said he was inspired to develop the “Struggle is Common” collection after losing a close friend to addiction. Lamont was seen wearing the notorious crew neck with celebrities such as Ye, Paris Hilton, and Khloe Kardashian. According to Lamont, his pals were tagging him in postings because they believed the design to be his.

Numerous people forwarded Lamont a link to Balenciaga’s website, which was selling the exact same black crew neck and multiple versions of the design for up to 25 times the cost. The Balenciaga “Free” crew neck version premiered on the Fall/Winter 2021 fashion show catwalk, coincidentally one year after Stapleton’s creation.

After his social media post, many netizens were outraged that a house as powerful as Balenciaga would claim credit for a thought that originated from a very sentimental location. Multiple times, this problem regarding appropriation and Black creatives feeling devalued by prominent designers has surfaced. Balenciaga has not yet responded.

Patterson and Lash Named Susan Brennan Co-Artistic Directors of Prospect 

Ebony G. Patterson and Miranda Lash have been named Susan Brennan CoArtistic Directors of Prospect.6 New Orleans. The duo will collaborate on the conception and curation of the sixth edition of Prospect, which is scheduled to debut in the fall of 2024. Lash and Patterson met for the first time in 2017 when Lash co-curated the exhibition Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art with P.4 Artistic Director Trevor Schoonmaker when Lash was curator of contemporary art at the Speed Art Museum, Louisville, Kentucky.

This partnership and their many similar curatorial interests brought them together. It is the first time a curator-artist duo has been charged with organizing the famous triennial as co-artistic directors. Patterson has taught at the University of Virginia, Edna Manley College School of Visual and Performing Arts, the University of Kentucky as an associate professor in painting and mixed media, and at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago as the Bill and Stephanie Sick Distinguished Visiting Professor.

Patterson has tackled colonialism in her installations and sculptures, concentrating on the degradation of the natural environment, different types of violence, and more. Frequently, she recommends various means of healing after tragic events.

Lash is the Ellen Bruss Senior Curator of Contemporary Art at the Denver Museum of Contemporary Art. Lash was the inaugural curator of modern and contemporary art at the New Orleans Museum of Art from 2008-2014. In 2023, her next project, Tomashi Jackson: The Poetics of Relation, will include a major museum exhibition and monograph on Jackson’s work.

“I am greatly looking forward to bringing our collective curatorial vision to life for Prospect.6,” said Patterson. “I have always been moved by the history and culture of New Orleans and how it occupies a unique space in the U.S., as a much closer reflection of the richness of the global majority.

“There are so many practices that knit New Orleans together that generate and reflect both local specificity and global concerns. Through bringing my artistic background and perspective to the role and our collaborations with artists, I plan to center the value of the artist,” she said.

15th Anniversary Fashion Show & Style Awards To Open New York Fashion Week

Harlem’s Fashion Row (HFR) announced today that the much-anticipated 15th Anniversary Fashion Show & Style Awards will kick off New York Fashion Week on Sept. 6, in collaboration with LVMH in North America. With this year’s theme, “Future’s Past,” the event will highlight fashion’s future, fueled by the unseen history of numerous achievements, sacrifices, and discoveries in fashion, which motivate HFR to explore groundbreaking partnerships and promote Black-owned enterprises. This unique anniversary event will enhance diversity, equality, and inclusion initiatives in the fashion industry.

“As LVMH looks to the future of our group and maisons through the lens of diversity, equity and inclusion, we are thrilled to partner with Harlem’s Fashion Row on their 15th anniversary celebration, and to cast a spotlight on the cultural richness and creativity of the Harlem community,” said Anish Melwani, chairman and chief executive officer, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton Inc.

“The success of LVMH’s Maisons stems from their ability to reveal creative talents from across the world, and we are excited to support the New York Fashion Week debut of three talented BIPOC designers from our neighboring community of Harlem,” Melwani said.

In addition, HFR will design a new prize in memory of Virgil Abloh, which will be presented by his spouse, Shannon Abloh. The award recognizes those who exemplify Virgil’s enthusiasm, creativity, and vision by significantly contributing to culture, community, and innovation. Issa Rae will be awarded the prize this year, with Sergio Hudson, Robin Givhan, Ade Samuel, and Janet Jackson receiving the ICON of the Year Award. Clarence Ruth, Johnathan Hayden, and Nicole Benefield are scheduled to display their collections during the event. 

Several brands from the LVMH portfolio will join in celebrating the next generation of diverse fashion talent by supporting various aspects of the Fashion Show & Style Awards throughout the evening. Sephora will provide runway hair products from Black-owned brands that are also part of the 15% Pledge program created by Aurora James. Dior Beauty will sponsor all skincare, makeup and artistry teams.

Gaëtane Verna Named Executive Director of Wexner Center

Gatte Verna, an art historian and arts administrator, has been selected as the new executive director of The Ohio State University’s Wexner Center for the Arts. In November, Verna will move to the Wex from The Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery in Toronto, where she has served as director and artistic director since 2012.

Before joining The Power Plant, Verna served as executive director and chief curator of one of Québec’s most prominent art museums, the Musée d’art de Joliette, from 2006 until 2012. Previously, Verna was the curator of the Foreman Art Gallery at Bishop’s University, Sherbrooke, Québec, from 1999-2006. She also taught in the art history departments of Bishop’s University and the Université du Québec à Montréal. 

Verna has curated and organized exhibitions by emerging, mid-career, and established Canadian and international artists since 1998. These artists include Terry Adkins, John Akomfrah, Vasco Arajo, Miriam Cahn, Alfredo Jaar, Luis Jacob, Kimsooja, Yam Lau, Oswaldo Maciá, Mario Pfeifer, Javier Téllez, Denyse Thomasos, Bill Viola and YOUNG-HA. Additionally, Verna has edited and provided articles to various books and catalogs.

“The Wexner Center for the Arts is one of the leading contemporary art institutions in the United States and in the world,” Verna said. “It is a shining beacon for the artists and all communities it welcomes and serves. Through bold inquiry and practice, the Wex embraces its multidisciplinary mission of innovation, education and meaningful engagement and enables us to examine the most pressing and urgent issues of our time. I am both honored and excited to join the staff of the Wex and the board in building on its glorious past and shaping its bright future together.”

Verna is a member of the board of directors for the Canada Council for the Arts, TV5 Québec Canada, the Holt/Smithson Foundation, and the Sobey Art Foundation. She is a former president of the Toronto Arts Council’s board of directors and is on the advisory committees of the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Department of Global Africa and the Diaspora and Mosaic Institute.

In 2017, the French government named her the Chevalier of l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Order of Arts and Letters) for her outstanding contributions to the advancement of the arts in France and across the globe. “We are thrilled to welcome Gaëtane Verna to Ohio State and the Wexner Center for the Arts,” said Ohio State Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Melissa L. Gilliam.

“With deep experience in elevating emerging and established artists, she believes strongly in the role of contemporary art as a conduit for exploring important issues and engaging communities,” Gilliam said. “As she joins us in Columbus, she will be bolstered by our talented and dedicated Wex staff and our students, faculty, staff and community that engage with the Wex.”

-By Sumaiyah E. Wade

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