Type to search

Allison Joyner

Spelman art gallery’s ‘Black American Portraits’ displays African Americans from 1800 to today

The entrance of the Black American Portraits exhibition at Spelman's Museum of Fine Art. (Photo by Michael Jensen, provided by the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art.)

The exhibit will be presented now until June 30.

By Allison Joyner

Last month, Spelman College’s Museum of Fine Art opened its latest exhibit, featuring portraits that give a historical context of Black people living in the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries. 

“Black American Portraits” showcases African American figures in several mediums centered around love, abundance, family, community and exuberance. 

Image provided by Spelman College Museum of Fine Art by Michael Jensen.

The majority of the 113 pieces in the collection were created by Black women artists like quilter Bisa Butler and Georgia native Amy Sherald. 

“Spelman is specifically dedicated to art by and about women of the African diaspora but also borders with exhibitions like this,” said Dr. Liz Andrews, Executive Director of the art museum. 

The idea of the exhibition came when Andrews worked at the  Los Angeles County Museum of Art in 2021. She and the museum’s curator-at-large, Christine Kim, were inspired by visitors’ reactions after viewing the Obama portraits that were on display in the museum.

Describing the portraits as “more recognizable than the Mona Lisa,” Andrews felt it was important for those who viewed them to better understand the historical context of the famous pieces of art. 

With the country at the height of a global pandemic and civil unrest, Andrews felt it was a critical time for people to see depictions of the beauty of Black people through art. 

Andrews knew she wanted this exhibit to be one of the first shows she hostd when she became executive director last year. 

“Spelman helps define the knowledge,” Andrews said. “We have an excellent collection that should be studied and exhibited beyond the walls of the AUC.”

“The Signing” by Renee Cox now on display in the Black American Portraits exhibit at Spelman’s Museum of Fine Art. Image provided by LACMA.

Some portraits include images of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Congressman John Lewis, former Georgia democratic generational candidate and Spelman alum Stacey Abrams and formerly enslaved woman and founder of the city of Los Angeles, Biddy Mason. Augmented reality is used as a medium to display a monument you can only see on Snapchat. 

“You pick up your phone, open up the Snapchat app and it appears as a monument for you,” Andrews said.

Andrews told SaportaReport that she would love people to have moments inside the gallery that surprise and inspire, and she hopes everyone sees a part of themselves in each image.

“There’s a beautiful way that you can wander the galleries and have your own experience and know that we’ve set up these vignettes for you to explore and discover for yourself,” Andrews said. 

Admission into the “Black American Portraits” exhibit at the Spelman College Museum of Fine Art is free to the public. Check out the school’s website for more information. 



You Might also Like

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.