The Met Hit the Jackpot of African-American Art

Thornton Dial, Out of the Darkness the Lord Gave Us Light (2003).
Courtesy The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art has received a major new donation of African-American artwork that promises to strengthen the museum’s holdings in the subject significantly.

The 57-piece gift was donated to the museum by the Souls Grown Deep Foundation, according to the New York Times, which had the story, and will address an area of the Met’s collection long considered to be lacking. The gift includes 20 quilts by the storied Gee’s Bend quilters, a collective of women in rural Alabama whose abstract designs incorporate a narrative art practice with roots in the pre-antebellum south. Other artists in the collection include Lonnie Holley, Nellie Mae Rowe, Joe Minter, and Thornton Dial, a self-taught painter and sculptor noted for his use of found objects who will arguably become the most significant folk artist to be exhibited in the museum to date.

“It embodies the profoundly deep and textured expression of the African-American experience during a complex time in this country’s history and a landmark moment in the evolution of the Met,” Director Thomas P. Campbell told the Times.

The gift is yet another recent addition to the museum’s modern art holdings, which have been bolstered in the last year by a large donation of cubist painting by Leonard Lauder, and have necessitated a much-needed redesign of its modern and contemporary galleries that will last until possibly 2020, when the museum turns 150 years old.

There is no word as to whether the foundation’s gift will be given the same solo exhibition treatment that Lauder’s has (see “‘Cubism’ at the Met: Modern Art That Looks Tragically Antique“), but for now the museum has said it is planning an exhibition of works from the gift set to open in the fall of 2016.

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