Basquiat at Sotheby’s, The MET Collaborates with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments , Shonda Rymes Receives BAFTA award and more: This Week in Black Art and Culture

Above: Now’s the Time, acrylic and oilstick on wood. 92 ¼ by 93 ¼ in., 234.3 by 236.9 cm. Executed in 1985.

Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction is slated to auction Basquiat’s Now’s the Time. The Smithsonian American Art Museum acquires from Dr. Robert  Drapkin a wide-ranging collection of photographs that represent African Americans . The Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) announces the launch of a long-term project to facilitate the digitization and cataloguing of the NCMM’s collections. BAFTA (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) announces that Shonda Rhimes has been selected as the recipient of a BAFTA Special Award. Read more in This Week in Black Art and Culture.

At Sotheby’s: Basquiat’s Now’s the Time

This May, as a part of its New York sales, Sotheby’s Contemporary Evening Auction will offer Basquiat’s Now’s the Time, one of the most unique and monumental works from the artist’s career, as a highlight.

Executed in 1985, Now’s The Time demonstrates Basquiat’s work from the absolute apex of his international success as an artist, when he was also the center of New York’s creatively exploding downtown art scene. As Basquiat’s most visually simplistic and mature masterpiece, Now’s the Time witnesses Basquiat radically paring down the explosive bravura of his street-art-based paintings into an austere composition that replicates a vinyl record pressing with only a few inscriptions scrawled upon the black matte surface. It’s one of the most stylistically uncharacteristic entries in Basquiat’s oeuvre, which is commonly thought of as being brightly colored, with abstract elements that recall the syncopated rhythms of jazz.

“In Now’s the Time, we witness Basquiat radically simplify the explosive bravura of his street-art style to create a painting that ranks amongst the most important and visually striking masterworks in his oeuvre,” Grégoire Billault, Sotheby’s chairman of contemporary art, said. “As a final touch, he emblazons his signature copyright sign on the surface: both giving credit to Parker, and marking the painting, the declaration, and the moment as his own.”

The Smithsonian Acquires Photographs from Dr. Robert Drapkin

Hooks Brothers, “Pullman Porters,” undated, silver emulsion photograph, Smithsonian American Art Museum, the Dr. Robert L. Drapkin Collection, Museum purchase through the Luisita L. and Franz H. Denghausen Endowment. 

The Smithsonian American Art Museum has acquired a wide-ranging collection of photographs that represent African Americans from the medium’s early years to the near present—roughly the 1840s to the 1970s—from Dr. Robert Drapkin, a medical doctor and art collector. The collection includes 404 objects, including rare daguerreotypes, ambrotypes and tintypes, as well as mixed paper prints. The Dr. Robert L. Drapkin Collection looks broadly at how photography was adapted by Black makers and consumers to self-represent and how others used it to recast racial tropes using the new medium to represent and misrepresent African American history and culture.

The Drapkin Collection acquirement follows the Larry J. West collection purchased in 2017 by the Smithsonian American Art Museum (SAAM), which included 40 daguerreotypes (an early form of photography made on polished metal plates) by prominent 19th-century Black photographers James P. Ball, Glenalvin Goodridge and Augustus Washington, dating from the 1840s to the mid-1920s. The Smithsonian American Art Museum now has the world’s most extensive collection of daguerreotypes by these photographers, exceeding the Library of Congress’ collection of 26, according to the museum. The Drapkin Collection adds three works by Ball to the museum’s unparalleled holdings.

The Drapkin Collection ranges from portraits of enslaved persons made by their enslavers to images serving abolitionism, from stereo cards and panoramic pictures of the Southern cotton culture to Farm Security Administration photographers documenting Black life during the Great Depression and from news reports of Ku Klux Klan rallies in Northern cities to portraits from Black-owned studios capturing their vibrant communities and civic leaders.

“Photography is the history of everything from the 1840s to the present,” Drapkin said. “These images tell us how we lived and how we have changed. They have important messages that continue to evolve and inform us about ourselves. The Smithsonian is the best possible place to keep these valuable objects.”

This fall, the museum will debut a focused installation of works by Ball from the Drapkin and West collections alongside paintings from the museum’s permanent collection by Ball’s contemporary, Robert S. Duncanson. The dedicated gallery will feature artists whose works are a strength of the museum’s collection. Both artists were based in Ohio, and Duncanson worked in Ball’s studio coloring photographic plates. They were among the first African American artists to be recognized internationally during their lifetimes. 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art Collaborates With Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments 

The Metropolitan Museum of Art and Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments (NCMM) announced today the launch of a long-term project to facilitate the digitization and cataloging of the NCMM’s collections. 

The multi-phased initiative will start with an exploration of how the collaboration and training with The Met will best suit the future needs of the NCMM, followed by convenings and workshops between the institutions and the creation of a pilot project in the Nigerian museums around documentation and education. The collaborative initiative furthers the commitment to exchanges of expertise and art between the two organizations, formalized in 2021 in a Memorandum of Understanding.

“We are thrilled to be taking this important step forward with Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments,” said Max Hollein, director of The Met. “The Met has a long history of partnering with institutions around the world on the exchange of ideas and information, and we are honored to undertake this collaborative effort at the request of our colleagues in Nigeria. It is a critical time for The Met to partner with the NCMM on sharing knowledge and research to facilitate the cataloguing of works in what is one of the largest collections of art from Africa on the continent and in the world. This initiative will provide vital experience and perspective for both institutions, and we look forward to our continuing collaborations.”

The Nigerian National Commission for Museums and Monuments’ director general, Professor Abba Isa Tijani commented, “We at the NCMM are highly delighted at the several collaborative initiatives planned by The Met and the NCMM. These initiatives are forward-looking and shall cement a budding, mutually supportive relationship that will involve the exchange of expertise and interfacing of scholars from different worlds and perspectives.”

The first year of the initiative comprises three phases that began in March 2023 with the establishment of a new residency, to which Chizoba Joy Ephraim—principal curator at the National Museum, Lagos, Nigeria—has been appointed. This residency will focus on understanding collection protocols and practices in Nigerian museums so that The Met and the NCMM can develop a plan to digitize these resources and create programming that will turn them into valuable educational resources. 

During her residency, Ephraim—along with Met experts in the Museum’s curatorial, digital, imaging and education departments—will explore how the collaboration and training with The Met will best suit the future needs of NCMM and the National Museum, Lagos. For the second phase, The Met will host a virtual convening with experts from the NCMM and the National Museum, Lagos to share findings and discuss options for developing digital documentation capabilities in advance of a workshop in Nigeria this summer. 

The meeting also will address current needs for basic infrastructure and sustained support for foundational technologies as prerequisites for future digitization activities. The third phase will be devoted to creating a pilot project in Nigerian museums around documentation and education. Further collaborations will be announced as this long-term partnership continues. 

Shonda Rhimes To Receive BAFTA Special Award

BAFTA has announced that Shonda Rhimes has been selected as the recipient of a BAFTA Special Award, to be celebrated during an exclusive tribute event in New York City on May 3, 2023.

Shonda Rhimes is an award-winning television creator, producer, author, and CEO of global media company Shondaland. Rhimes is the first woman to create three television dramas—Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal—that have achieved the 100-episode milestone. She is also the executive producer of the hit ABC series How To Get Away with Murder. 

In 2017, Rhimes shifted the entertainment industry’s business model when she left network television for an unprecedented agreement for Shondaland to exclusively produce streaming content in partnership with Netflix. Bridgerton, Shondaland’s first scripted series with the streamer, has become a worldwide franchise, with seasons 1 and 2 of the show holding top spots among English-language programming for Netflix. On May 4th, the Bridgerton world expands with the launch of a prequel series Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, created and executive-produced by Rhimes.

“We are honored to be presenting a BAFTA mask to such a deeply respected and admired artist,” said Kathryn Busby, chair of the BAFTA North America Board. “Shonda’s trailblazing work has captured our hearts and inspired audiences around the world. As a groundbreaking producer, showrunner and writer, her impact on the landscape of modern global television is simply unparalleled.”

The award will be celebrated during a special evening featuring an intimate fireside chat and cocktail reception for an invited industry audience. The prestigious event also marks the return of BAFTA’s in-person award presentations in North America.

Rhimes broadened her company’s content landscape when she launched the culture website in partnership with Hearst Digital Media and Shondaland Audio, along with iHeart Radio to produce podcast content. She is a New York Times bestselling author for her memoir Year of Yes and has built multi-platform partnerships with such leading brands as Dove, St. John, MasterClass, Microsoft and Mattel. Rhimes has been included three times in the TIME 100 list of most influential people, and her work has been celebrated with numerous awards, including induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame.

“Shonda has built the foundation and platform to launch global careers and has created the opportunity for new voices and talents to thrive in this industry.” said BAFTA Chair Krishnendu Majumdar. “She has raised the bar, set the standard, and it is simply impossible to think of a television industry without her creative force, talent and vision behind it.”.

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