10 Museums of Contemporary Art To explore African and American Art
When it comes to understanding and imbibing the true meaning of art, there is no better place than museums of contemporary and modern art. African American art and African Art plays a significant role in not only the history of America, or Africa but also the world. With the ‘Black Lives Matter’ movement opening doors for better recognition for the existing members of the community, it is also important to appreciate African American art from the yesteryear. If the historian in you, wishes to know more about black, African, afro-descendants’ culture and the times gone by, you should pay a visit to one of these ten museums of contemporary art. These museums are a delight for historians, students, tourists, and anthropologists alike. They have also been instrumental in promoting newer talent from the community and highlighting their achievements to the rest of the world. Here’s what each of these is famous for.
Located in Washington D.C. This is the largest museum in the USA specifically dedicated to document and exhibit African American art, history, culture, and life. The museum covers various aspects of the black culture, including first person accounts of slavery, civil rights movements, sports, jazz, hip-hop, education, and politics.
There are approximately 35,000 artifacts at the museum with 3500 currently on display. Former U.S president, Barack Obama’s inauguration invitation from 2009 is also kept here, along with a dress sewn by Rosa Parks and a boxing headgear worn by Mohammad Ali. Recently the museum launch ‘Talking About Race’, an educational program to provide tools and guidance to empower the journey and inspire conversation regarding the ‘BlackLivesMatter’ movement.
The Museum of the African Diaspora (MOAD) is situated in California. MOAD tracks African American art in various spheres like politics, society, and cultural movements. The museum is not only a reflection of the historic landmarks in black culture but also exhibits current, on-going achievements that continue to redefine the African American culture. The museum is home to the Toni Rembe Freedom Theater where you can listen to narratives by prominent African figures. The theatre only uses audio tapes and no pictures or videos. In addition to this, the museum has held many exhibitions over the years, including Dandy Lion’s ‘(Re)Articulating Black Masculine Identity’ and ‘A Matter of Fact’ by the American Nigerian artist, Toyin Ojih Odutola.
3. Whitney Museum of American Art
One of the leading art institutions in the United States, the Whitney Museum of American Art showcases 20th-century and contemporary American art, with a special emphasis on the works of living artists. The museum holds a biennial art show that bears its name and is the nation’s premier survey of the most recent developments in American art.
The Whitney Museum’s permanent collection includes works by contemporary artists such as Jennifer Packer, Julie Mehretu, John Edmonds, Jonathan Lyndon Chase, Simone Leigh, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Walter Price, Rashid Johnson, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Kara Walker, Deana Lawson and many others.
The Zeitz Museum of Contemporary Art Africa is located in Cape Town, South Africa. It is the largest museum of contemporary art for African culture in the world. Built in 2017, you can expect to find some of the most unique architectural designs here.
The museum has some of the most noteworthy works from the African diaspora from the 21st century. The museum has conducted many unique exhibitions in the past showcasing the works of emerging and established artists like the South African artist, Zanele Muholi, Glenn Ligon, Roger Ballen, Richard Mudariki, Admire Kamudzengerere, Athi-Patra Ruga, Cosmos Shiridzinomwa, Cheri Samba, El Anatsui , Abdoulaye Konaté, Gonçalo Mabunda, Julien Sinzogan, Kendell Geers, Kehinde Wiley and more. The permanent collection extensively covers themes like race, identity, and sexuality in the black community.
The Museum of African Contemporary Art Al Maaden (MACAAL), Marrakech, is an independent, not-for-profit contemporary art museum and one of the first of its kind in North Africa. This unique museum focuses on Modern and Contemporary African art and culture through educational programs, exhibitions, workshops and events.
The museum nurtures an understanding of contemporary African art by collecting and exhibiting both established and emerging artists, and highlighting the creative energy and cultural diversity found across the continent. MACAAL is a philanthropic initiative of Moroccan art collectors Alami Lazraq and his son Othman Lazraq. Motivated by a passion for the arts, and managed by Othman, MACAAL brings the Lazraq family’s private collection of modern and contemporary African art, built up over the past 40 years, to a broader audience.
Through its artistic direction led by Meriem Berrada, the museum is developing a territorial approach through a vast curatorial programme in response to local needs but also according to current events. The MACAAL is above all an inclusive museum that implements solutions (training programme for cultural leaders, artist residencies, acquisitions of works, workshops, open-air cinema, Cuckoo Clocks Fridays…;) to bring art to the public and not the other way round.
This is one of the most popular museums in America. Established in 1967 and now famously known as MCA, the museum has been instrumental is setting a path for emerging talent. The museum was initially a place for exhibitions, but it soon transformed into a functioning museum with many remarkable collections. The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago also features theatre, dance, and music performances by national and international personalities. It has time and again partnered with the local black communities too.
One of the most noteworthy exhibitions conducted by the museum in the realm of African American art has been Kerry James Marshall’s paintings. The exhibition extensively covered and showcased Marshall’s paintings made over the last 35-40 years and included works like ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Shadow of His Former Self’ and ‘Past Times’. The museum hosts books written by over 3,000 authors and contains approximately 2,700 collectible items. These items range from the early 1940s to the post-modern world of today.
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Spread over two locations in Los Angeles, the museum has a vast range of items to engage people. The Museum of Contemporary Art has over 6,000 collectibles. Many of these have been gifts by private collectors and artists. MOCA is the centre of contemporary art with many collections, apprenticeship programs, and workshops on the art form. The museum hosts Jean-Michel Basquiat’s iconic painting, ‘Six Crimee’ as a part of their permanent collection.
The Museum’s permanent collection includes works by contemporary artists such as Diedbrick Brackens, Amy Sherald, Nari Ward, D’Angelo Lovell Williams and others.
Located in Los Angeles, the museum was founded in 1971 and has many exhibits focusing on African American art from California and the western part of the country. CAAM’s vision is quite unique. The museum is involved in the education and enrichment of African American culture, history, art, and liberation movements. You can find regular workshops, classes, presentation etc. being conducted with local public schools here. There are an estimated 6300 collectibles in the museum that include artifacts and other objects of historical relevance. In addition to this, the museum’s library has over 20,000 books on the African American community.
The DIA is one of the oldest and most visited museum of contemporary art in the country. The museum contains many famous and defining works from Mexico, Europe, and Africa with the General Motors Center For African American Art specifically dedicated to the African American culture. In fact, the museum assimilated 14 works from prominent black artists to add to their collection. The museum also recently hosted an exhibition, Selections of African American Art from Private Collections, that showcased the works of artists like Carrie Mae Weems and Rashid Johnson. You will also find artists such as Edouard Duval-Carrié, Beauford Delaney, Peter Williams, Kara E. Walker, Therman Statom, Jacob Lawrence, Gordon Parks, or Kehindey Wiley
The last but not the least, the Studio Museum Harlem is located in Manhattan and is a one not to be missed point for African and African American art, culture, and history. It also offers visitors a wonderful insight into the African diaspora. The Harlem Studio Museum opened its doors in September 1968 thanks to the vision and support of a group of Harlem artists, activists, philanthropists and residents. The museum has historically been able to follow the evolution of Black culture from the 1960s to the present day.
The museum has over 2000 works from artists African and American artists like Jacob Lawrence. Right from sketches and drawings to photographs, the museum celebrates diverse kinds of works by local, national, and international African American artists. The Studio museum Harlem also conducts workshops and programs like the studio residency program that offers emerging artists free studio space and a stipend to work on their projects. This is a welcoming change as it promotes artists from the black community to come forward and showcase their talent.
The permanent collection includes works by artists such as Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Fred Wilson, Kara Walker, Seydou Keïta, Leslie Hewitt, Noah Davis, Deborah Grant, Elizabeth Catlett, Sadie Barnette, Kerry James Marshall, Dawoud Bey, Julie Mehretu, Mickalene Thomas, Malick Sidibé, Derrick Adams and many more. A book has recently been published on the work of the artists in the museum’s permanent collection – Black Refractions, Highlights from The Studio Museum in Harlem.
There are many places around the globe that have been dedicated to celebrating African American art but there is still much work that needs to be done to rightly recognize their artistic contribution in the art history. These museums of contemporary art and historical milestones offer the curious minds a glimpse into the lives and works of the various artists from the African diaspora. Right from liberation movements, to popular culture like jazz and hip-hop, the black culture has a lot to offer to the world. These museums make sure to preserve their rich history and continuing efforts.