The Week in African American Art: Kehinde Wiley Signed with a Hollywood Agent & More


The following review of the past week presents a snapshot of the latest news in African American art and related culture:


Kehinde Wiley has signed with a Hollywood talent agency. Shown here, he attends the opening for his exhibition “Trickster” at Sean Kelly Gallery in New York City. | Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage, Getty Images



Kehinde Wiley (above) has a Hollywood agent. The Brooklyn-based artist joined Brillstein Entertainment Partners in Los Angeles. The talent agency will handle licensing his paintings for use on screen, identify opportunities to direct and produce films, option books, and develop original material and collaborate with screenwriters. The announcement follows the appearance of Wiley’s paintings on a few seasons of the Fox television series Empire and his historic turn as the first African American artist to paint an official presidential portrait for the National Portrait Gallery. Wiley’s portrait of President Barack Obama was unveiled at a Feb. 12 ceremony in Washington, D.C. Artists Rashid Johnson and Steve McQueen are also on a growing list of visual artists who are complementing their gallery representation with an entertainment/talent agent.

The Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky., announced the acquisition of a rare self-portrait by Bob Thompson, who was born and raised in Louisville. “The acquisition of a major Bob Thompson painting has been a goal of the Speed Art Museum for years,” said Miranda Lash, curator of Contemporary Art at the Speed Art Museum. “Thompson, along with the great Sam Gilliam, is one of Louisville’s most important artists.”

Denmark’s first public monument to a black woman was installed in Copenhagen. Seated in a wide-backed chair that resembles Black Panther Huey P. Newton’s wicker throne, she is barefoot and holds a torch in one hand and a sugarcane cutting tool in the other. According to the New York Times, two artists “unveiled the striking statue in tribute to a 19th-century rebel queen who had led a fiery revolt against Danish colonial rule in the Caribbean.”



Theaster Gates (left)accepted a three-year appointment at Colby College in Waterville, Maine. The Chicago-based artist is the institution’s first distinguished visiting artist and director of artist initiatives at the Colby Museum of Art’s new Lunder Institute for American Art. Gates is speaking at the 2018 commencement and his tenure will conclude with a major exhibition in 2021 featuring new works created during his time on campus.

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art selected Courtney J. Martin to serve as 2018 juror of Louisiana Contemporary, the annual statewide juried exhibition. Martin, who is deputy director and chief curator at the Dia Art Foundation, will consider the work of contemporary artists across the Louisiana and choose first, second, and third place awardees, in addition to a Best in Show winner who will receive The Helis Foundation Art Prize. The exhibition will be on view Aug. 4-Nov. 4, 2018. The submission deadline is April 10.

The New York Institute of Fine Arts added three new board members: artist Pope.L, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Visual Arts at the University of Chicago; Jennifer Russell, former associate director for exhibitions at The Metropolitan Museum of Art and alumna of the Institute; and art historian Rachel G. Wilf. Russell and Wilf are alumni of the institute.


IMAGE: Above left, Theaster Gates. | Theaster Gates Studio


Commissioned by The UrbanArt Commission and The City of Memphis, “I Am a Man Plaza,” 2018, by Cliff Garten Studio, (bronze, stainless steel, granite, and marble, 12 x 11 x 4 feet, Plaza 54,000 square feet. | Courtesy Cliff Garten Studio



Frieze New York announced a series of artist projects that will be presented on Randall’s Island throughout the art fair (May 3-6, 2018). Titled “Assembly,” the Live program is curated by Adrienne Edwards and features performances and installations inspired by collectivity. Participating artists include Adam Pendleton, Renée Green, Dave McKenzie, and Hank Willis Thomas.

After marking the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr., on Wednesday, the city of Memphis unveiled a monumental “I Am a Man” sculpture on Thursday. The installation is located on a public plaza adjacent to Clayborn Temple, a central organizing site for the 1968 sanitation strike. Workers carried “I Am a Man” signs during the historic demonstration.

The Delaware Art Museum and the Delaware Historical Society collaborated on Wilmington 1968, a new website launched to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. After the civil rights leader was killed, the city responded passionately with demonstrations and the National Guard was deployed. The reserve military force occupied Wilmington for nine months, a span regarded as the lengthiest occupation of an American city in U.S. history. The project is designed to educate the public about the historic period and local civil rights history to spur dialogue about the community’s future.



The Graham Foundation awarded new 2018 grants, $534,850 to 74 individual and collective projects that advance our understanding of the built environment and foster critical discourse in archiecture. Spanning exhibitions, publications, films, new media, and site-specific installations, funded projects include “Incense Sweaters & Ice,” an immersive installation by Los Angeles-s based artist Martine Syms; “Bond: Race and the Modern City,” which is described as the first book-length study of the architect J. Max Bond Jr. (at right, on far left); “Sacred Stoops: Typological Studies of Black Congregational Spaces,” an investigation of the porch and its role in the African American community; and research exploring “emerging paradigms” in architectural education across sub-Saharan Africa.

Artist Glenn Ligon and Pulitzer Prize-winning New Yorker critic Hilton Als are among the New School’s six honorary degree recipients. They will briefly address the graduates at the school’s May 18 commencement at Arthur Ashe Stadium at the USTA Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing Meadows-Corona Park, Queens.

On April 5, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation announced 173 fellowships for a wide range of artists, scholars, and scientists. Recipients included Todd Gray (Fine Arts), Hank Willis Thomas (Photography), Teju Cole and Roxanne Gay, were also recognized for General Nonfiction. See full list of 2018 fellows


IMAGE: Above right, J. Max Bond, Jr. (far left) with architects Donald Ryder and Nathan Smith, circa 1969. | Courtesy of Davis Brody Bond



Anti-apartheid activist Winnie Madikizela-Mandela died April 2 in Johannesburg. The ex-wife of Nelson Mandela was 81. Her role in the liberation of South Africa was overshadowed by corruption and allegations of crimes and violence, scandals that dominated the opening passages of her obituaries, here and here. CT



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