Harlem Meets Kalamazoo: 100 Works From the Studio Museum’s Collection Are Hitting the Road in a Two-Year Tour of America

Works by Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kerry James Marshall, and Kehinde Wiley are among those traveling in the project organized with the American Federation of Arts.

Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Nwantinti (2012). © Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Courtesy of the artist; Victoria Miro, London and Venice; and the American Federation of Arts.

Next year, while the Studio Museum in Harlem is closed for the construction of its new David Adjaye-designed building, more than 100 works from its permanent collection are going on the road. The exhibition, “Black Refractions: Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem,” organized in conjunction with the American Federation of Arts, will travel to institutions around the country for two years.

Curated by Connie H. Choi, an associate curator at the Studio Museum, the show will bring together works in a variety of media, dating from the 1920s to today. Nearly 80 artists are represented, including some blockbuster names, such as Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Kerry James Marshall, Mickalene Thomas, Alma Thomas, Faith Ringgold, and Kehinde Wiley.

Kerry James Marshall, Silence is Golden (1986). © Kerry James Marshall. Courtesy of the artist; Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; and American Federation of Arts. Photo: Marc Bernier.

The museum’s investment in living artists is part of what attracted Pauline Willis, the director and CEO of the American Federation of Arts to the project. “As this show has come together, I have learned so much about the deep connection that the Studio Museum has fostered with artists, whether through the artist-in-residence program or commissioning new work, that has helped artists grow their achievements and take next steps in their careers,” Willis tells artnet News. “The Museum’s impact continues to resound both within the community and extends this to the national and international stages as well.”

The show will begin its two-year run early next year at the Smithsonian’s Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco, where it will be on view from January 15 through April 14, 2019. After that, it will travel to the Gibbes Museum of Art in Charleston, South Carolina (May 24 – August 18, 2019); the Kalamazoo Institute of Arts in Michigan (September 13 – December 8, 2019); the Smith College Museum of Art in Northampton, Massachusetts (January 17 – April 12, 2020); the Frye Art Museum in Seattle, Washington (May 9 – August 2, 2020); and the Utah Museum of Fine Arts in Salt Lake City, Utah (August 28 – December 13, 2020).

Jordan Casteel, Kevin the Kiteman (2016). © Jordan Casteel. Courtesy of the American Federation of Arts. Photo: Adam Reich.

Each iteration of the exhibition will be a little different, as hosting institutions mold it to their own visions and audiences, and will be accompanied by a series of dialogues and public programming.

“The national tour of Black Refractions will add to an expanded view of American art history that is of great contemporary importance,” Willis says. “Many are not fully aware of the tremendous contributions artists of the African diaspora have made to American art. I think we will see an enormous amount of dialogue around this topic stemming in part from this exhibition tour.”

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