New York’s First Lady, Chirlane McCray, Heads to Italy to Speak on Black Bodies in Art

Chirlane McCray. Photo via: Elle.

Chirlane McCray, New York City’s First Lady, is skipping town this week to attend an NYU-sponsored conference on black subjects in film, literature, music, and art. McCray, who will be traveling without her husband and children, is set to give the opening remarks at the conference in Florence, Italy, titled, “Black Portraitures II: Imaging the Black Body and Re-staging Histories,” which explores “aesthetics, vernacular style, fashion, and ethnographics.” Co-sponsors for the event include Harvard University, the Ford Foundation, and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

The conference “invite[s] visitors to conduct a diverse visual reading of the notion of a black portrait while challenging conventional perspectives on identity, beauty, cosmopolitanism, and community in Africa and its diaspora,” according to the event description.

Along with discussions, this year’s conference will include an exhibition of black subjects in art, housed within NYU’s Villa La Pietra, which holds an extensive collection of early Italian, Flemish, and Renaissance art and objects. The exhibition will feature a collection of “blackamoors,” and invitees are encouraged to create conversations around the statues and their meanings.

NYU's Villa La Pietra.  Photo:

NYU’s Villa La Pietra.

Despite the fact that it is routine for organizations that are sponsoring conferences to pick up the tab for speakers, local tabloids are incensed that the university, which won city approval last year for a controversial $6 billion expansion in Greenwich Village, is paying for McCray’s estimated $6,500 flight and accommodations.

Rich Calder writes in the New York Post, “McCray is going back to Italy less than a year after taking a family trip there with the mayor and their kids last July.”

However, McCray isn’t the only celebrity who has recently taken the podium at an NYU event. Last weekend, actor Robert De Niro gave the keynote speech at the Tisch School of the Arts graduation (see Robert De Niro Tells NYU Arts Students They’re Screwed).

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