Baltimore Museum of Art shows off a more diverse collection

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Wangechi Mutu’s “Water Woman.” Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

One year after selling off part of its collection in order to acquire more works by women and artists of color, the Baltimore Museum of Art is showing off some of its purchases.

Directors this week unveiled a new exhibit in the museum’s contemporary wing, entitled “Every Day: Selections from the Collection.” Running until Jan. 5, the show required a complete re-installation of the contemporary collection galleries, the first since 2012, and features works by black artists from the 20th and 21st centuries, including many of the newly acquired pieces.

The museum also announced plans for additional exhibits over the next two years, including major shows on African-American abstract art and women artists. Leaders said they plan to dedicate a year of exhibits and programming to women artists in 2020, to mark the 100th anniversary of U.S. women getting the right to vote in 1920.

“‘Every Day’ underscores the BMA’s commitment to presenting the achievements of artists who have for too long been underrepresented in our artistic and cultural dialogues,” said Christopher Bedford, the museum’s director, in a statement.

“Black artists have deeply influenced the development of modern art and are producing some of the most innovative work of our time,” Bedford said. “This installation captures the aesthetic and conceptual interplay between those artists who have traditionally been celebrated for their vision and work and those that deserve much greater acclaim and examination.”

The goal was to “change the paradigm” in terms of what the museum presents and what visitors see and take away, said Asma Naeem, chief curator.

The “Every Day” exhibit is broken into seven thematic groups that explore different ideas: history, ceremony, violence, material, gesture, shape and self. An eighth gallery contains Isaac Julien’s “Baltimore,” a three-screen video that follows two people exploring three cultural sites in the city, the Walters Art Museum, the Peabody Library and the Great Blacks in Wax Museum.

Containing more than 65 objects, the “Every Day” exhibit features works by several Baltimore artists, including Linda Day Clark, Roland Freeman and Joyce Scott, along with well-known artists such as Andy Warhol, Kara Walker and Ellsworth Kelly.

Amy Sherald’s “Planes, rockets, and the spaces in between.” Photo courtesy of the Baltimore Museum of Art.

It also marks the BMA debut of works by Amy Sherald, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Julien and others that were acquired with funds from the sale of seven works that were deaccessioned last year.

The pieces that were sold include: Franz Kline’s “Green Cross” (1956, oil on canvas); Kenneth Noland’s “Lapis Lazuli” (1963, acrylic on canvas); Kenneth Noland’s “In-Vital” (1982, acrylic on canvas); Jules Olitski’s “Before Darkness II” (1973, acrylic on canvas); Robert Rauschenberg’s “Bank Job” (1979, mixed-media mural); Andy Warhol’s “Oxidation Painting” (1978, acrylic paint containing metallic pigment with portions oxidized by urine); and Andy Warhol’s “Hearts” (1979, synthetic polymer paint and silkscreen ink on canvas).

Since announcing plans to sell the seven pieces, the museum has acquired 31 works in various media by women and artists of color.

Sherald’s work, entitled “Planes, rockets and the spaces in between,” is the first painting that she created after completing her highly publicized portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. It was also her first painting to depict figures in an outdoor landscape.

Other newly acquired works include:

  • “Water Woman,” a bronze sculpture of a figure that looks like an African woman with a mermaid’s tail, by Wangechi Mutu (seen above);
  • Self portraits of South African artist Zanele Muholi and American artist David Driskell;
  • “R.S.V.P. Reverie,” a sculpture by Senga Nengudi;
  • “Daily Mask,” a video by Maren Hassenger and others;
  • “Running Freed More Slaves Than Lincoln Ever Did,” a work of oil and mixed-media on canvas, by Mary Lovelace O’Neal;
  • “8am Cadiz,” a work of oil on linen, by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye; and
  • “Scales of Injustice 2017/2019,” a barbed wire sculpture by Melvin Edwards.

On Sept. 29, the museum will open “Generations: A History of Black Abstract Art.” Directors said it will feature nearly 80 paintings, sculptures and mixed-media installations that reflect the power of abstract art and “significant contributions that black artists have made to the development of abstraction” from the 1940s to the present. Featured artists include Kevin Beasley, Mark Bradford, Leonardo Drew, Jennie C. Jones and Norman Lewis.

Directors also announced “2020 Vision,” a year dedicated to presenting work by female-identifying artists.

Highlights of the effort will be a large-scale installation in the museum’s two-story East Lobby by Mickalene Thomas; a showing of Candice Breitz’s video works and a major survey of the work of Joan Mitchell.

The museum also plans to reinstall more of its galleries to emphasize “the depth and diversity of women’s artistry through time.”

Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.
Ed Gunts


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