What We Collect: Works from the Permanent Collection
This exhibition offers a glimpse into how our Museum has addressed its mission of collecting the visual arts heritage of black peoples worldwide. Although the forty-four works on display are only a tiny portion of the nearly four thousand objects in the collection, they nevertheless provide a sampling from which it can be noted that the holdings are international, historical and contemporary, figurative and abstract, and well-balanced in the representation of male and female artists.
The sampling underscores the Museum’s commitment to presenting a wide spectrum of works by an equally wide spectrum of artists. From the outset, the collection has been international. In it, you will find works by artists born in Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Colombia, South American. There are also artists such as Panamanian-American Arturo Lindsay whose cultural background is in the African Diaspora of the Americas.
In building the collection, a careful balance has been achieved between well-known figures and artists that we believe to be consequential. We want the collection to express our conviction that a tradition cannot be a small number of super artists; rather, it must grow from the contributions of many. Moreover, there is a very, very large community of excellent artists who are not yet adequately recognized and collected.
The scope of art represented in the exhibition stretches from works by such critical giants as Charles White, Roy DeCarava, and Robert “Bob” Thompson, to significant but less well-known figures such as Joseph Norman, Calvin Burnett, Jack Whitten, Margo Humphrey, Ellen Banks, Renee Westbrook, James Reuben Reed and Edward McCluney.
The principal body of art by Harlem Renaissance Chester Dames is held by the museum. Enjoy his two Harlem paintings that are comparable to similar works by other American scene painters of the era such as Moses Soyer. Locally, Allan Rohan Crite depicted the Boston neighborhoods as shown by his several watercolors and drawings; however, he was equally interested in religious themes.
Artists active in New England produced the majority of works held by the museum. That is because this region is rich in artists and because many of them are underrepresented in other museum collections. Among painters and printmaker with significant career links to New England are Richard Yarde, Nefertiti (formerly Cynthia Freeman), Cheryl Warrick and Robert Freeman.
Works from the 19th and early 20th century provide a foundation for the collection, as demonstrated by several drawings and watercolors by Edward Mitchell Bannister (1828-1901). Other 19th century artists represented in the collection buy not in this exhibition include Henry O. Tanner and Grafton Tyler Brown. Among early 20th century artists feature in the current exhibition are Wilmer Jennings and Albert Smith.