Critically Acclaimed Designer and Artist Malene Barnett Explores Artnet Galleries

See some of Barrett's favorite works from the Artnet Galleries.

Photo by Kelly Marshall.
Photo by Kelly Marshall.

Designer Malene Barnett is living proof that art and design go hand-in-hand. Although she has spent the past 20 years working in the world of design, Barnett actually got her start as an artist. She took up drawing at the age of eight, and later studied painting, fashion illustration, and textile surface design at the Fashion Institute of Technology. More recently, Barnett has focused her attention on clay, crafting sculptural tiles and vessels that explore family histories in the Caribbean. 

Beyond her critically-acclaimed work as a designer and artist, Barnett’s mission is to open doors and create community impact for the next generation of Black artists. In 2018, Barnett founded the global platform Black Artists + Designers Guild. Through her work with the guild, she is bringing awareness to the racial inequalities that continue to plague the art and design markets in order to create a more equitable future.

We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Barnett and hear about everything from her preferred party favor to her favorite design project to date. Read on to learn more about how Barnett’s design work is transforming the art world at large.


Malene Barnett’s Favorite Things

Movie: Lion

Party favor: Scented candles

Bucket list destinations: Tanzania and Madagascar

Quarantine hobby: Surfing the internet

Artist: So many, but here are a few: Magdalene Odundu, Billie Zangewa, Chris Ofili, El Anatsui

Museum: National Museum of African American History and Culture

TV show: Lovecraft Country

Book you’ve read recently: Flash of the Spirit: African and Afro-American Art and Philosophy

Podcast: Code Switch

Food to eat for breakfast: Kite Hill non-dairy vanilla Greek yogurt.

Way to celebrate success: Cake with buttercream frosting.

Project you’ve ever worked on: Designing custom rugs for Saks Fifth Avenue.


Top Gallery Picks

“I gravitate toward art that has bold representations of a subject, color, materials, scale, or techniques. All of these draw me in and inspire me to learn more about the art. Aesthetically, I love large-scale work that uses materials in unconventional ways.” —Malene Barnett


Daniel Buren
Colore, luce, proiezione, ombra, trasparenza, lavoro situato n°6 (2015)

Courtesy of Galleria Continua.


Zao Wou-Ki
Untitled (1975)

Courtesy of De Sarthe Gallery.


Lavett Ballard
Hey Black Child (2019)

Courtesy of Long-Sharp Gallery.


Deana Lawson
Soweto Queen (2017)

Courtesy of Sikkema Jenkins & Co.


Delphine Desane
Journeyin’ to Utopia I (2020)

Courtesy of CFHILL Art Space.


Julio Le Parc
Continuel mobile en diagonal (2020)

Courtesy of Perrotin.

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