September 22, 2023


How Art Works

The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism

5 min read

In February 2024, The Metropolitan Museum of Artwork will current the groundbreaking exhibition The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism. Via some 160 works, it should discover the great and far-reaching methods through which Black artists portrayed on a regular basis trendy life within the new Black cities that took form within the Twenties–40s in New York Metropolis’s Harlem and Chicago’s South Aspect and nationwide within the early many years of the Nice Migration when thousands and thousands of African Individuals started to maneuver away from the segregated rural South. The primary survey of the topic in New York Metropolis since 1987, the exhibition will set up the Harlem Renaissance as the primary African American–led motion of worldwide trendy artwork and can situate Black artists and their radically new portrayals of the fashionable Black topic as central to our understanding of worldwide trendy artwork and trendy life.  

A big proportion of the work, sculpture, and works on paper on view within the exhibition come from the intensive collections of Traditionally Black Schools and Universities (HBCUs), together with Clark Atlanta College Artwork Museum, Fisk College Galleries, Hampton College Artwork Museum, and Howard College Gallery of Artwork. Different main lenders embody the Smithsonian American Artwork Museum and the Nationwide Portrait Gallery, Washington, D.C., with pending loans from the Schomburg Middle for Analysis in Black Tradition. The exhibition will even embody loans from important non-public collections and European museums.

“This landmark exhibition reframes the Harlem Renaissance, cementing its place as the primary African American–led motion of worldwide trendy artwork,” mentioned Max Hollein, The Met’s Marina Kellen French Director and CEO. “Via compelling portraits, vibrant metropolis scenes, and dynamic portrayals of evening life created by main artists of the time, the exhibition boldly underscores the motion’s pivotal position in shaping the portrayal of the fashionable Black topic—and certainly the very material of early Twentieth-century trendy artwork.”

“We’re very happy to current this wide-ranging exhibition that establishes the New Negro cohort of African American artists and their allies—now often called the Harlem Renaissance—on the vanguard of the portrayal of contemporary Black life and tradition in Harlem and different new Black cities nationwide at a time of speedy enlargement within the first many years of the Nice Migration,” added Denise Murrell, The Met’s Merryl H. and James S. Tisch Curator at Massive. “Many New Negro artists spent prolonged durations overseas and joined the multiethnic creative circles in Paris, London, and Northern Europe that formed the event of worldwide trendy artwork. The exhibition underscores the important position of the Harlem Renaissance and its radically new modes of portraying the fashionable Black topic as central to the event of transatlantic trendy artwork.”

The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism will open with galleries that discover the cultural philosophy that gave form to the New Negro motion of artwork and literature, a time period outlined and popularized by the motion’s founding thinker, Howard College professor Alain Locke, in dialogue and debate with W.E.B. Du Bois, Charles S. Johnson, and influential literary and music figures together with Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and James Weldon Johnson. On the core of the exhibition are the artists who shared a dedication to depicting the fashionable Black topic in a radically trendy approach and to refusing the prevailing racist stereotypes. Though united of their shared goal to painting all facets of contemporary Black life and tradition, particular person New Negro artists developed extensively diversified representational types, starting from an engagement with African and Egyptian aesthetics and European avant-garde pictorial methods to a dedication to classicized tutorial custom.

Featured artists embody Charles Alston, Miguel Covarrubias, Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, William H. Johnson, Archibald Motley, Jr., Winold Reiss, Augusta Savage, James Van Der Zee, and Laura Wheeler Waring.

The exhibition will proceed with galleries dedicated to portraiture and style scenes that seize all facets of Black metropolis life within the Twenties–40s as seen in vibrant work, sculpture, and movie projections in addition to pictures from The Met’s lately acquired James Van Der Zee Archive and artists’ cowl illustrations for books and periodicals, together with the NAACP’s Disaster and the Nationwide City League’s Alternative: A Journal of Negro Life. Monumentally scaled allegorical historical past work and portraits of luminaries will present compelling vista views.

A gallery that includes work by New Negro artists who lived and labored in Europe throughout prolonged durations of expatriation will current their work in direct juxtaposition with portrayals of the worldwide African diaspora by Black and white European artists together with Henri Matisse, Edvard Munch, and Pablo Picasso, in addition to Germaine Casse, Kees Van Dongen, Jacob Epstein, and Ronald Moody.

The New Negro period’s fraught method to social points together with queer identification, colorism and sophistication tensions, and interracial relations would be the topic of a gallery that includes work, ephemera, and pictures animated by movie clips. The exhibition will conclude with an artist-as-activist gallery spotlighting artists’ remedy of social justice points because the New Negro period involves an in depth on the cusp of the Fifties civil rights motion. A coda will function Romare Bearden’s 15-foot-wide collection of collages, The Block (1970), from The Met assortment, which evokes a city home row in mid-century Harlem and that sustains the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance.

In preparation for the exhibition, The Met is endeavor intensive archival analysis, conservation and restoration remedy, and unique pictures of essential however seldom seen artworks.

The Met has an prolonged historical past of gathering and displaying works by artists energetic through the Harlem Renaissance. Within the Nineteen Forties, the Museum acquired a number of early works by reward from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), similar to Jacob Lawrence’s Pool Parlor (1942). In 1969, the Museum introduced the exhibition “Harlem on My Thoughts”: The Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900–1968, which was met with nice controversy for excluding works of portray and sculpture by Black artists and as a substitute presenting a social narrative of Harlem advised by reproductions of newspaper clippings and pictures of distinguished leaders and nameless Harlem residents—in large-scale dioramas extra much like ethnographic or pure historical past museum shows than to artwork museum galleries. For the practically 50 years since that exhibition, The Met has expanded its holdings of works produced through the Harlem Renaissance—notably in 2021 with the institution of the James Van Der Zee Archive in partnership with the Studio Museum in Harlem—and it continues to be an space of focus. The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism will present an artwork and artist centered celebration and investigation into the Harlem Renaissance as a trailblazing, pivotal interval inside the artwork of the Twentieth century.

Credit and Associated Content material
The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism is organized by The Met’s Denise Murrell, PhD, Merryl H. and James S. Tisch Curator at Massive, Workplace of the Director, in session with an advisory committee of main students.

A completely illustrated scholarly catalogue on the colourful historical past of the Harlem Renaissance will accompany the exhibition. It’ll function essays that discover how the move of concepts by Black creative communities on either side of the Atlantic contributed to worldwide conversations round artwork, race, and identification whereas serving to to outline our notion of modernism. {The catalogue} is revealed by The Metropolitan Museum of Artwork and distributed by Yale College Press; will probably be out there for buy from The Met Retailer.

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