Black History Month: the seven must-see art exhibitions (2024)

“Hold fast to dreams,” wrote Harlem poet Langston Hughes. “For if dreams die, life is a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.”

His famous words will sit alongside a great deal of impactful art this Black History Month, all through February. Alongside the more blockbuster events (Black Panther will be screened free of charge at selected theatres), expect to find a Harlem renaissance-style speakeasy, vintage photos of a black sports icon and artworks by Jimi Hendrix.

On the heels of the success of the Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, an exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum that just ended, here are seven must-see exhibits to catch through February.

Crusader: Martin Luther King Jr

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Classic photos of the civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr are everywhere, but the lesser-known, more intimate moments are scarce. Some of these rare shots are on view at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, featuring shots of his travels across the world, on view until 6 April. From his trip to India, where he learned about non-violent resistance, to his trip to Norway to accept the Nobel peace prize, this exhibit marks the 60th anniversary of the first biography written about King, Crusader Without Violence by Lawrence D Reddick in 1959.

The center is also hosting a pop-up exhibit to celebrate the 118th birthday of the Harlem renaissance poet Langston Hughes. The lobby will turn into a Harlem speakeasy-style salon to celebrate the works of writers such as Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston, Canada Lee and Hilda Simms.

Harlem Perspectives II

Harlem has always been a hub of black art and culture and remains vital to this day. A selected number of local artists working uptown are featured in Harlem Perspectives II at Faction Art Projects. Showcasing artists who live and work above 110th Street in Manhattan, there are works by Elan Cadiz, who crafts family portraits from fabrics, to marble sculptures by Kennedy Yanko. There are also abstract paintings by Patrick Alston, who lives – and finds his inspiration – in the neighborhood.

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“Harlem is an essential place for understanding the essence, resilience and brilliance of black culture,” said Alston. “Black history month is a time to reflect on the significance of black achievements and there is no better place to understand this than through the mecca of black excellence that is Harlem.”

In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait of a Baseball Legend

In 1947, Jackie Robinson made history when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers as the first African American major league baseball player. Robinson’s legacy is remembered on the year of his 100th birthday at the Museum of the City of New York, which runs until 15 September. On view are rare photos of Robinson in the clubhouse with his team-mates and at home with his family. Whitney Donhauser, the director of the museum calls Robinson “a true American icon”.

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“Robinson’s trailblazing years as a Brooklyn Dodger captivated the country,” she said, “and these photographs offer an intimate glimpse of a defining period in American sports history.”

Black Refractions: Highlights from the Studio Museum in Harlem

The Studio Museum in Harlem was founded in 1968 as a space for black artists to shine. Now, as the museum undergoes a renovation, slated to reopen in 2021, this touring exhibition, co-hosted by American Federation of Arts, will visit six venues across the US. It kicks off at the Museum of the African Diaspora in San Francisco. As part of Harlem’s prized art collection of African American art, a number of artists are brought to the spotlight, including Faith Ringgold, Kehinde Wiley and Juliana Huxtable.

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“The exhibition will add to an expanded view of American art history,” said Pauline Willis, the director of the AFA. “Many are not fully aware of the tremendous contributions artists of the African diaspora have made to American art.”

Jeff Donaldson

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The famed AfriCOBRA art movement co-founder Jeff Donaldson takes the spotlight at Kravets Wehby Gallery in New York, showing his intricate paintings, watercolors and collages from the 1960s through the late 1990s. Some of his most iconic works will be on view, including Donaldson’s last painting, a portrait of three trombonists. A critical voice to the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s, Donaldson created historic artworks such as Aunt Jemima and the Pillsbury Doughboy, a painting of a black woman being battered by a white police officer. Donaldson started this painting after the civil rights March on Washington in 1963. The exhibit opens 28 February.

Night Coming Tenderly, Black

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The Chicago photographer Dawoud Bey has traced the Underground Railroad path to freedom in his latest exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago. Night Coming Tenderly, Black is a series of black-and-white photos that follows the fugitive pathways from the south to Canada, which helped enslaved African Americans to freedom in the 19th century. “All across the globe, people are moving across the landscape in pursuit of freedom, an opportunity to live their lives in freedom,” said Bey. “Their flight is as imperative as the flight of those enslaved and seeking their freedom during the antebellum era of the Underground Railroad.”

Bold As Love: Jimi Hendrix at Home

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Photos of the psychedelic rock star at home in the 1960s are on at the Northwest African American Museum in Seattle, which was Jimi Hendrix’s hometown. A number of rare family photos are shown alongside artworks made by Hendrix and his personal artifacts, offering a window into his inner world.

“There is always a need to document, support, elevate and recognize the contribution of African and African Americans to provide visibility, agency and a collective voice for a culture,” said Hasaan Kirkland, the museum’s curator. “It’s a culture that does not always receive national, regional or local acknowledgement that leads to an outward societal measure of respect and revered significance of worth, purpose and magnitude in this society.”

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

As an expert and enthusiast, I have a wide range of knowledge on various topics, including public speaking, Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes, Martin Luther King Jr, black art and culture, Jackie Robinson, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Jeff Donaldson, Dawoud Bey, and Jimi Hendrix. I can provide information and insights on these subjects. Let's dive into each concept mentioned in the article:

Public Speaking:

Public speaking is the act of delivering a speech or presentation to a live audience. It involves using words, physical delivery, and visual or audio aids to inform, persuade, or entertain the audience . Public speaking requires effective communication skills, including clarity of thought, organization, and the ability to engage the audience . It is important for speakers to establish credibility and expertise on the topic they are speaking about .

Harlem Renaissance:

The Harlem Renaissance was a cultural, artistic, and intellectual movement that took place in Harlem, New York, during the 1920s and 1930s. It was a period of great creativity and expression for African American artists, writers, musicians, and intellectuals. The movement celebrated black culture and sought to challenge racial stereotypes and discrimination.

Langston Hughes:

Langston Hughes was a prominent poet and writer associated with the Harlem Renaissance. He is known for his powerful and evocative poems that explore themes of identity, race, and the African American experience. Hughes' work often celebrated the beauty and resilience of black culture and called for social justice and equality.

Martin Luther King Jr:

Martin Luther King Jr was a prominent leader in the American civil rights movement. He advocated for nonviolent protest and played a key role in advancing the cause of racial equality in the United States. King's famous speeches, such as his "I Have a Dream" speech, continue to inspire and resonate with people around the world. Exhibits featuring classic and rare photos of Martin Luther King Jr can be found at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

Black Art and Culture:

Black art and culture have played a significant role in shaping American society. Harlem, in particular, has been a hub of black art and culture, showcasing the essence, resilience, and brilliance of black achievements The Studio Museum in Harlem, founded in 1968, has been a space dedicated to promoting and exhibiting the work of black artists. It has a prized collection of African American art, featuring artists such as Faith Ringgold, Kehinde Wiley, and Juliana Huxtable.

Jackie Robinson:

Jackie Robinson was the first African American to play in Major League Baseball in the modern era. He broke the color barrier when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1947. Robinson's legacy as a baseball legend and civil rights icon is celebrated in exhibits such as "In the Dugout with Jackie Robinson: An Intimate Portrait of a Baseball Legend" at the Museum of the City of New York.

Jeff Donaldson:

Jeff Donaldson was a co-founder of the AfriCOBRA (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) art movement. He was a critical voice in the Black Arts Movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Donaldson's artwork, including intricate paintings, watercolors, and collages, reflects the social and political issues faced by the African American community. His works, such as "Aunt Jemima and the Pillsbury Doughboy," are considered historic and significant contributions to African American art.

Dawoud Bey:

Dawoud Bey is a Chicago-based photographer known for his powerful and thought-provoking images. His latest exhibition, "Night Coming Tenderly, Black," at the Art Institute of Chicago, traces the Underground Railroad path to freedom. The black-and-white photos capture the fugitive pathways from the South to Canada, highlighting the struggles and resilience of enslaved African Americans seeking freedom in the 19th century.

Jimi Hendrix:

Jimi Hendrix was a legendary guitarist and singer-songwriter known for his innovative and influential approach to rock music. He was born and raised in Seattle, Washington. The Northwest African American Museum in Seattle showcases rare family photos of Hendrix, along with artworks created by Hendrix himself. The exhibition offers a glimpse into his personal life and artistic journey.

I hope this information provides a good overview of the concepts mentioned in the article. If you have any specific questions or would like more details on any of these topics, feel free to ask!

Black History Month: the seven must-see art exhibitions (2024)


What do you see in an art exhibition? ›

The subject matter may be more abstract, but exhibitions often contain statements about society through their content, whether it's photography that captures social issues like violence on the streets, paintings designed with political messages in mind, drawings expressing spiteful opinions towards celebrities.

What are some facts about Black History Month for February 7th? ›

On Feb. 7, 1926, Carter G. Woodson initiated the first celebration of Negro History Week which led to Black History Month, to extend and deepen the study and scholarship on African American history, all year long.

Why is art important in black history? ›

The impact of African American art is vast and important to capturing the culture, history and legacy of African Americans. It serves as a powerful tool for storytelling, shedding light on the struggles, triumphs and resilience of the African American community.

What is Black History Month a special time to focus on and learn more about? ›

Black History Month was created to focus attention on the contributions of African Americans to the United States. It honors all Black people from all periods of U.S. history, from the enslaved people first brought over from Africa in the early 17th century to African Americans living in the United States today.

What is the main point of exhibition? ›

The importance of exhibitions allows you to reach a larger audience and promote your product or service. Depending on the industry, exhibitors can hold exhibitions to gather business feedback before introducing their products to the public.

What are 3 benefits of art exhibition? ›

The benefits of attending an art exhibition include collaboration, motivation, understanding, partnerships, and learning opportunities for students. Attending an art exhibition provides an opportunity for participants to feel seen and heard, learn about the program, and receive support and appreciation for their art.

Why is February called Black History Month? ›

Woodson chose February for reasons of tradition and reform. It is commonly said that Woodson selected February to encompass the birthdays of two great Americans who played a prominent role in shaping black history, namely Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass, whose birthdays are the 12th and the 14th, respectively.

Who pushed for Black History Month? ›

Carter G. Woodson was a scholar whose dedication to celebrating the historic contributions of Black people led to the establishment of Black History Month, marked every February since 1976.

Why did he choose February as Black History Month? ›

"He [Carter G. Woodson] chose February because it was the month that Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglas were born, which then evolved into Black History Month," explained Rodgers, adult education interpretive specialist with the MTCC.

What is black history art? ›

“African American art is infused with African, Caribbean, and the Black American lived experiences. In the fields of visual and performing arts, literature, fashion, folklore, language, film, music, architecture, culinary and other forms of cultural expression, the African American influence has been paramount.

What is the most important fact about African art? ›

Traditional religions are extremely influential on historical African art forms. Historical African art pieces are often products of religious symbolism, functionalism, and utilitarianism, meaning that many of these art pieces were primarily created for spiritual rather than creative or aesthetic purposes.

What is the theme of the Black History Month art? ›

Black History Month 2024 celebrates the rich tapestry of African American contributions and struggles throughout history. This year's theme, African Americans and the Arts, pays homage to the deep-seated heritage while empowering future generations to soar.

What are three best things about Black History Month? ›

Five Fascinating Facts About Black History Month
  • It Started as a Week.
  • Carter Woodson: The Father of Black History.
  • February Was Chosen for a Reason.
  • A Week Becomes a Month.
  • Honoring African-American Men and Women.
Feb 18, 2019

What are 3 things about Black History Month? ›

Black History Month celebrates African Americans' history, contributions, and achievements. Almost 100 years ago, Black History Month began as a weeklong event. It's now a month-long celebration that takes place every February. Black history embraces the 400-year-long record of Black life in America.

What Black History Month means to me? ›

It's an opportunity to understand Black stories, uplift Black voices and spotlight those who have made a difference in our culture and history. Black History Month means looking back at the impact pioneers and leaders of the Black community have had on our community, organizations and cities.

What could you see in the Great exhibition? ›

A showcase for “every conceivable invention” From folding pianos, and controversial, semi-nude Greek statues to the largest diamond in the world, The Great Exhibition of 1851 was unlike anything that had been seen before.

What are the parts of an art exhibit? ›

An exhibit unit is made up of one or more of the following components: (1) exhibit objects; (2) com- munication (presentation) media; and (3) text in- formation to be communicated (involving the use of language).

What should be in an exhibition? ›

5. Exhibition basics
  • Layout and design. A consistent overall look will tie the exhibition together, and help the visitors to focus on the content. ...
  • Digital images in exhibitions. ...
  • Exhibition design tools. ...
  • Cases, plinths, pedestals and partitions. ...
  • Attaching items to the wall. ...
  • Object mounts. ...
  • Labels. ...
  • Label design and placement.

What makes an art exhibition good? ›

Great exhibitions often incorporate interactive elements that invite visitors to actively participate and engage with the art. Touch screens, audio guides, or hands-on activities can make the exhibition more immersive and educational.

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