This Week in Black Art and Culture: El Anatsui, Kelly Rowland at Sotheby’s, Aaliytha Stevens at ARTHOUSE and more

2/25/2023 – El Anatsui has been named the next Hyundai Commission artist for Tate Modern’s Turbine Hall. The new season of Art21 on PBS will feature Amy Sherald and Hank Willis Thomas. Aaliytha Stevens has joined ARTHOUSE as chief strategy officer. A Robert Colescott painting has sold for $4.5 million. Kelly Rowland has been selected to curate the Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated Auction. Learn more in This Week in Black Art and Culture.

El Anatsui: Next Hyundai Commission Artist for Tate Modern

El Anatsui will create the next Hyundai Commission, according to a statement from Tate Modern and Hyundai Motor. El Anatsui, one of today’s most unique artists, is best known for his cascading metallic sculptures made from countless used bottle tops articulated with copper wire. Anatsui’s work examines topics including the environment, consumption and trade by repurposing found materials into stunning abstract works of art. Public access to his Turbine Hall site-specific artwork will be available from Oct. 10, 2023 to April 14, 2024.

“El Anatsui is responsible for some of the most unique and unforgettable sculptures in recent times, and we are delighted that he will tackle the Turbine Hall this autumn for the annual Hyundai Commission,” said Tate Modern Director Frances Morris. “Anatsui’s much-loved Ink Splash II (2012) in Tate’s collection enchants visitors wherever it’s shown, and we can’t wait to see how this inventive artist will approach a space like the Turbine Hall.”

Anatsui spent the majority of his time in Nigeria despite being born in Anyako, Ghana in 1944. Anatsui has had a long and illustrious career as an artist and an educator, holding the positions of professor of sculpture and department head at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He has also developed a highly experimental approach to sculpture that embraces a variety of forms and materials, including wood, ceramics and found objects. 

Since the late 1990s, he has been experimenting with liquor bottle tops. He now pushes the limits of the material by developing radical, transformative sculptures that take on new forms with each installation. Anatsui combines particular regional aesthetic traditions with the global history of abstraction because he is fascinated by the shifting histories of the items he transforms into shimmering sculptures. At the 56th International Art Exhibition of the Biennale di Venezia in 2015, Anatsui received the Golden Lion for Lifetime Achievement, and his work is included in prestigious collections all over the globe. Osei Bonsu, curator of international art, and Dina Akhmadeeva, assistant curator of international art are the curators of the exhibition Hyundai Commission: El Anatsui, which will be supported by a brand-new book from Tate Publishing.

Art21 on PBS To Feature Amy Sherald and Hank Willis Thomas 

Three segments from the upcoming Season 11 of Art in the Twenty-First Century, titled Everyday Icons, Bodies of Knowledge and Friends & Strangers, will examine the works of 12 artists. Previous seasons concentrated on the connections between artists and the places where they lived and worked. On Feb. 21, Art21 hosted a screening of Everyday Icons at the Tribeca Screening Center to mark the beginning of Season 11. 

Tina Kukielski, Amy Sherald, Rose B. Simpson, James Cohan, the chairman of Art21’s board of trustees, and a small audience witnessed the season premiere while listening to their comments. Many of the artists highlighted by Art21 over the years, including Jordan Casteel and Abigail DeVille, were present. All previous seasons of the television series will be made available on Art21’s YouTube channel ahead of the debut of Art in the Twenty-First Century. 

Past seasons of the show will begin airing on YouTube, starting with Season 10 in 2023. For the first time ever, Art in the Twenty-First Century will be available on YouTube for free. In order to increase accessibility for viewers with visual impairments, Art21 will also debut a dual media player on its website for the premiere of Everyday Icons. This player will provide a descriptive audio option.

“When we began thinking about how to frame this latest season of Art in the Twenty-First Century, we considered our current historical moment and decided to turn the lens inward and focus on the United States,” said Tina Kukielski, Susan Sollins Executive Director and Chief Curator of Art21. “We see artists as leaders of change, and in this first episode, we wanted to highlight artists who challenge and question American monuments and iconography.”

The first episode of the season, Everyday Icons, will air on PBS on Friday, April 7, 2023 at 10:00 p.m. EDT. It will feature artists Amy Sherald, who was hired to paint the late Breonna Taylor and former First Lady Michelle Obama; Alex Da Corte, who brought a sculpture of Big Bird to the rooftop garden of the Metropolitan Museum of Art; and Daniel Lind Ramos, who won the 2021 MacArthur “Genius” Grant. 

This hour examines artists who consider the aesthetic customs and past we come into contact with every day. Their work broadens our visual lexicon to represent a shifting social landscape. The frequently rigid bounds of expectation are disregarded in the work of these artists in favor of novel concepts, unconventional methods, and playful suggestions for who and what constitute a culture’s symbol. Their creativity and flexibility allow viewers to create their own unique and unexpected worlds, which encourages empathy, connection and critical thought. Cannupa Hanska Luger, Linda Goode Bryant, Miranda July, Christine Sun Kim, Anicka Yi, Guerrilla Girls, Tauba Auerbach, and Hank Willis Thomas will appear in the ensuing two segments of Season 11.

Aaliytha Stevens Joins ARTHOUSE

Aaliytha Stevens has joined ARTHOUSE, a full-service digital firm, as chief strategy officer. In order to rebuild the industry as a whole, ARTHOUSE’S executive team has made a significant hire. By working closely with their clients, media and marketing partners, and industry agencies to bring back audiences and welcome newcomers to the magic of live entertainment, they are demonstrating their commitment to leading holistically with experience. 

Stevens will oversee and expand ARTHOUSE’s audience development initiatives in her role through careful work grounded in empathy, trust and creative integrity. She will assess consumer targets as a group of potential ticket buyers who are all different and deserve careful communication at the appropriate time and place. Stevens has over 20 years of experience in branding and live entertainment marketing at full-service advertising firm SPOTCo. She was praised for being the highest-ranking Person of Color to represent marketing, publicity, and advertising throughout the entire Broadway business during her time there.

Direct Mail and Print Services, Operations, and Audience Growth were all started by Aaliytha. Aaliytha is a cultural influencer who works to change statistics from the ground up. She is passionate about charitable giving, equitable workplace policies, equality and diversity within the Broadway industry and beyond. She serves on the boards of the Black Theatre Coalition, the New Heritage Theatre Group, the advisory council of The Theatre Leadership Project, and the Multicultural Task Force of the Broadway League while also serving on their EDI and Business Development Committees. She also is affiliated with the Women of Color in the Arts  (WOCA) and the Broadway Women’s Alliance (BWA).

Art Bridges Foundation Bids $4.5 Million on Robert Colescott Piece

Woman with Flowers by David Driskell, one of many works in the ArtBridges collection.

On Feb. 17, Bonhams held a postwar and contemporary art auction at its Los Angeles salesroom, where a 1980 painting by renowned American artist Robert Colescott brought in $4.5 million. ARTnews Top 200 Collector and Walmart heiress Alice Walton founded the nonprofit Art Bridges Foundation, which, Bonhams revealed shortly after the auction, had bought the piece. 

Miss Liberty, which was finished in 1980, features a Black woman as Lady Liberty wearing a red, blue, and yellow gown with a sash of white stars on a blue background and a purple and red cape. She is positioned in front of a colorful map of the United States while standing on a band of pink clouds. The piece was last shown to the public in 1986 and has been in the same private collection since 1984. A short time after Colescott, who passed away in 2009, finished painting it, it was added to a private collection. After many years, Miss Liberty now will be accessible to the public thanks to Art Bridges’ purchase.

“Not only are we thrilled with the results from today’s sale in Los Angeles, we’re also delighted to have had the opportunity to showcase this monumental and profoundly important painting in California, where Bonhams has established itself as the leading auction house on the West Coast,” commented Ralph Taylor, global head of post-war and contemporary art for Bonhams. “This work in particular presents a hopeful and powerful message, and we are pleased that it resonated so strongly with individuals and institutions alike.”

Colescott’s second-highest auction sale price was paid for Miss Liberty at Bonhams, just behind George Washington Carver’s Crossing the Delaware: Page from an American History Textbook (1975). It was purchased by the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art, which will open in Los Angeles in 2025, for $15.3 million at a Sotheby’s auction in 2021.

Kelly Rowland and Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated Auction

At the Moonfall film premiere in Los Angeles, Kelly Rowland looked beautiful in her Colour Play XXL diamond and malachite earrings from the Messika by Kate Moss High Jewelry collection. Elegant and colourful, this pair of diamond earrings perfectly complemented the singer’s all-black look. –

Kelly Rowland, an actor, songwriter, musician, and executive producer who has won four Grammy Awards, will contribute her distinct viewpoint to Sotheby’s Contemporary Curated Auction. Rowland personally has chosen several contemporary works of art that represent her own sense of style and taste as the guest curator for the upcoming sale on March 9 in New York.

“There are so many young people and young artists who want to be a part of this art world. This is a beautiful way to fuse these worlds together and to allow this conversation to start,” Rowland said.

Rowland’s collection includes paintings by Ernie Barnes, whose recent auction results were unexpected. The Sugar Shack (1976), his most famous piece, sold at Christie’s for more than $15 million, or 76 times the high estimate. The Dunk (1998), which features a woman leaping high while holding a basketball, and Four Ladies with a Gold Hat (1998) are just two of the pieces Rowland chose for the auction.

“My first exposure to art was through figurative works that I could identify with because, as a kid, the world around me didn’t look the way I did,” said Rowland. “Today, I find myself gravitating toward more abstract pieces that meld motion, energy, and color—those feelings of being on stage.”

Rowland, a global pop icon, has established herself not only in the music business but also in television, film and fashion. Rowland has many skills outside of the entertainment sector. She has written books and is the executive producer of her own docuseries, Chasing Destiny, which debuted in 2016. She published her first book, Whoa, Baby! : A Guide for New Moms Who Feel Overwhelmed and Freaked Out (and Wonder What the #*$& Just Happened), in 2017. Her children’s book, Always With You, Always With Me, shot to the top of The New York Times bestseller list last year. 

The Ali Forney Center in New York, which offers shelter and assistance to at-risk queer youth, will receive a portion of the proceeds from works donated by queer artists. Doron Langberg, Salman Toor, Jenna Gribbon, Hernan Bas, Felipe Baeza, and Nash Glynn are among the artists who have donated work.

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