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Art

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Why Black Art Should Be Part Of Your Investment Portfolio

With the increasing knowledge that art is a viable alternative asset, the rising interest in art by Black artists, coupled with the number of ways we can now invest in art, “Black art”, or African & Diaspora art should be considered as part of your investment portfolio.

A huge advocate of this asset class is art collector and entrepreneur, Freda Isingoma. Freda is the founder of KIISA, an investment & advisory firm focused on developing investment solutions for the Contemporary African & Diaspora Art market and ecosystem.

We caught up with her to learn more about investing in art and why she is so passionate about supporting the work of Black artists around the world.

What inspired you to start KIISA?

KIISA started as a response to a need and a gap that I identified in the African and Diaspora art market. Although my background is in investment banking and entrepreneurship, I have always loved art and have been collecting African & Diaspora art for 20 years. My collecting journey gave me an insight into the market and its dynamics.

black art
Alexis Peskine – Paris

This then prompted me to do a course on “Curating Contemporary Art” and the University of the Arts London, which gave me a bit of background on the more research element of the art world. It’s then that I started to further investigate the African and Diaspora art ecosystem as a whole and really understand what the gaps were.

Keyezua – Angola

After many conversations with mentors, I am glad I got to where I am now, where our focus is on developing a new “story” around African & Diaspora art investments and ecosystem development, and I get to leverage my skills and experience in finance, art collecting, and economic analysis.

KIISA is a pioneer in the Art Investments sector, providing investors with the opportunity to participate in Alternative Asset Funds that are intentionally designed to not only provide long term returns, but also develop impact solutions that drive the growth, visibility, knowledge, and sustainability of the Contemporary African and Diaspora art market.

Amy Sherald – America

Why do you prefer the term “African & Diaspora Art” over “Black Art”?

Many in the art world use either or. I specifically use African & Diaspora Art as it suggests the global footprint and impact of the Black artistic community, history, culture, identity, language, and much more. Ultimately, art made by Black artists is simply art.

Why is there a growing interest in African & Diaspora art? 

The interest in African & Diaspora art has always been there and that’s evident by the fact Classic African art influenced Early European and American Art movements including Cubism, Fauvism, German Expressionism, and American Modernism. We see this in the works of Picasso, Matisse, and Gaugin to name a few.

Furthermore, there has been interest in Modern and Contemporary art by Black artists over the years, but the main issue is that the interest has largely been shallow and inconsistent. The current spotlight on art by Black artists has mainly been generated by a wider interest from the Black community to collect art and be part of cultural economic growth, particularly the younger generation of collectors.

black art
Victor Ehikhamenor – Nigeria

While we have always had collectors within the Black community globally, there has been this misconception that art by Black artists is in main collected by Europeans and other non-Black communities. This is simply not true. The current wave of new collectors that are framing the new dynamic, is being driven by the acknowledgment of art collecting as a way of building cultural equity, preserving heritage, and also participating in an alternative investment growth story.  

Saying that, there has been a rising focus on Black artists by Western art museums and institutions post the protests in the US and globally last Summer. This is due to the fact that many of them were forced to finally face the racial disparities in their collections and programming and at the same time address this bias within the Western art cannon overall. If you ask me how much impact this will make, the jury is still out. There has been more virtue signaling to date, than measurable action. 

Lina Iris Viktor – United Kingdom

Why is it important to increase the number of Black people investing in African & Diaspora?

Any community needs to be the bedrock and foundation of their art ecosystem and cultural expression. I often draw similarities to the Chinese Art market emergence during the last global economic downturn 12 years ago and the intentional build of what is now a dominant art market player.

Although we are dealing with 54 countries and a global diaspora base, Black collectors are realizing that they are an essential part of the art ecosystem as a whole. If we look at art as a language and a way of telling the stories that document our cultural history and current social and political dynamics, it makes sense that these pieces of cultural documentation (and pride), inherent to your own cultural background, are collated and kept. In doing so, it builds a legacy of cultural heritage preservation, that will be shared with, and inform generations to come. 

black art
Goncalo Mabunda Maputo – Mozambique

The other significance in Black collectors taking a greater interest in building cultural equity ownership through collecting art, is that its organically spearheading this wave of new initiatives, collaborations, and technology focused on facilitating growth within the art economy.

Not only will this intensify the much needed demand for art by Black artists, but it will also transform the number of ways in which we invest in it. Furthermore, collectors are not only custodians of art, many are also patrons. Greater patronage makes sure that art/educational institutions and cultural centers continue to serve the local community adequately.

black art
Ndidi Emefiele – Nigeria

What roles can Black owned galleries and museums play in strengthening the market for African & Diaspora?

Black owned galleries and museums on the Continent and Black communities globally, play a vital and critical role in the growth of the African & Diaspora market. We are at a pivotal time in Africa’s artistic history where the repatriation debate is gaining momentum, and additionally where the demand for Modern and Contemporary African & Diaspora art has caught the attention of the art world.

Fundamentally, art museums are shared public spaces dedicated to promoting and educating on artistic and cultural knowledge, while preserving the heritage and artistic integrity of the local community. As a result, they form the foundational pillar of any cultural ecosystem. Therefore, it’s imperative that the community from which the art, the practice, and narrative originate, are also the primary validators of that art. This should not in any way stop the art from being shown, celebrated, engaged within other regions and nations.

Black owned galleries also play an important function too. They not only serve as a powerful portal to communicate the narrative of the artistic production from the community, they cultivate and reinforce a dynamic arts culture and economy that promotes the local artistic talent. This is essential, as it supports the growth, and investment of, artists within the Black community.

Additionally, they in turn nurture the development of collectors and art practitioners (e.g. curators and secondary market advisors), which is a critical component of the ecosystem development. Furthermore, galleries naturally then become procurers of ancillary services in adjacent and complementary businesses/industries in their local communities, as well as attracting “art” tourism, which can be catalysts for economic growth and infrastructural development within that community.

Underplaying the importance of Black owned museums and galleries hinders the empowerment of home-grown narratives and talent, while subsequently weakening the advancement of the domestic artistic community. 

black art
Fahamu Pecou -America

What are the first steps to becoming an art investor?

There a few ways in which you can invest in the art market. The obvious way is through building a collection. My advice is always to just start. Once you start, you get to sharpen your eye and taste, while at the same time learning more about the industry, its nuances, peculiarities ad possibilities.

I am a fan of “burning shoe leather”, whether it’s in person or virtual, through attending Art Fairs, studio visits, galleries, auctions, Art School final year shows, and even residencies. Routinely doing this helps to build relationships with artists, curators, dealers, and other collectors, that help to inform how to build your collection. Building a collection of significance can be fun, but it does take time to really define your taste, demystify the dynamics of the market and build relationships.

There’s no cheat sheet for this. The key is to buy what you love, that way you won’t look back and have any regrets. Do your research, then buy with your eyes and heart, not your ears, because trends in this market come and go just like any other industry.

The other ways to invest in the market are through art investment vehicles, which include art funds and syndicates. The last 12 years has seen a significant increase in the number of art investment vehicles launched because art typically produces returns that have little or no correlation to traditional stock and bond investments.

There was a recent study done by Morgan Stanley that showed that HNWIs have between 5-10% of their net worth invested in art. This is not surprising as alternative assets tend to be seen as a safer way of diversifying the overall risk of your investment portfolio, particularly when stock markets are overheated or/and volatile.

Furthermore, investing in art offers tax advantages, potential hedging against inflation/currency risk, and tends to hold its value over time irrespective of economic sentiment. Structured art investment vehicles offer an opportunity for investors to pool their investment with others, thereby diversifying their exposure to individual art holdings while increasing their exposure to a wider variety of art. Furthermore, they present an opportunity to benefit from the expertise of art investment specialists who understand how to operate in what is generally regarded as a potentially lucrative, but non-transparent market. 

The other channel is through Bitcoin. I am quite excited to see what impact Bitcoin will make in the market, and how it can democratize investment in art. Although the impact is still too small to measure, I believe it has the potential to be revolutionary, particularly for Black artists and Black investors in art. Currently, there are platforms being created to address this. We wait and see!

 

Tony O. Lawson


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Charles White Painting Missing For Decades From Howard University Turns Up At Sotheby’s

A painting by a noted artist Charles White vanished from Howard University in the 1970s and hadn’t been seen publicly until it turned up at Sotheby’s Auction House last month — and now the school is suing to get back the piece that they believe was stolen from them decades ago.

Howard University, acquired the artwork, “Centralia Madonna,” in the 1940s after its creator, Charles White, completed an artist-in-residency at the school, according to a lawsuit filed Friday in Manhattan federal court.

The ink drawing depicts an African American Madonna figure and had been in the university’s possession until at least 1974, when a graduate student viewed the work in the school’s collection and made a record of the piece, according to the suit.

charles white
Centralia Madonna

At some point soon after, the artwork was stolen from the school’s collection and marked as “missing” by a university curator in 1976, according to the lawsuit.

Staff at the university hadn’t been able to locate it in the decades since — until Sotheby’s Auction House in Manhattan contacted them in May to let them know it had been consigned and was scheduled to be put up for auction.

Charles White in his Los Angeles studio, 1970 photo: Robert A. Nakamura

Staff at the auction house told administrators at Howard that two people from South Carolina, Larry and Virginia Borders, had consigned the painting but provided no paperwork showing how it ended up in their personal collection, according to the suit.

The Borders gave shifting stories about how they acquired the work, first saying they received it as a wedding gift from someone named J.D. Kibler in 1972, according to the suit.

charles white
Charles White, 1943, Photograph by Gordon Parks at age 25

They allegedly changed their story, claiming Kibler gave it to them as a gift for no particular reason — but couldn’t expand on their relationship with him, or even provide his first name.

“They claimed J.D. Kibler to be a close friend, they stated that they did not know what the ‘J.D.’ stood for,” the suit states.

In several phone calls and emails this week, the university demanded the Borders return the painting to the school, which the pair refused to do, according to the lawsuit.

The university filed the suit Friday, seeking the artwork’s return and attorney fees related to the legal action. The case is Howard University v Borders, 20-cv-4716, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

(L-R) Howard University President Dr. Wayne A. I. Frederickand Gwendolyn H. Everett, Ph.D., director of the Howard University Gallery of Art and associate dean for the Division of Fine Arts beside Five Great American Negroes, at the Howard University Law Library

The couple’s “claims are all the more implausible given that Howard University has never sold or de-accessioned any work from its collection, and would certainly not sell or de-accession a work by Charles White, a hugely significant Black artist with strong ties to the university,” Howard said in its lawsuit.

In addition to purchasing several of his works, Howard appointed White to a three-year professorship shortly before his death.

In a statement, Sotheby’s said they are a third-party and the ownership dispute involves the Borders and Howard.

“This is an ownership dispute between the University and the consignors, which follows Sotheby’s due diligence in researching the work’s provenance,” the auction house said.

“Sotheby’s is merely a third-party stakeholder and will comply with any decision of the court,” it added.

 

Sources: New York Post and Bloomberg


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54Kibo, the Digital Marketplace Showcasing The Beauty of African Aesthetic and Luxury Décor

54kibo is the premier luxury digital home décor retailer for interior design professionals and consumers.

The brand was launched in 2018 by Nana Quagraine. Nana was inspired after her travels back and forth between over a dozen African countries and her home in Brooklyn, New York.

54kibo
Nana Quagraine

These travels helped her identify the strengths across the continent that could be exported to the world. 

54kibo

As a black woman, Nana was tired of the existing vocabulary used to describe Africa, blackness and womanhood. After she became a mother, she worried that there are not enough visual symbols, especially in the U.S. to signal to her children that their blackness is valued by society. She wanted them to be proud of their roots and have the same appreciation for Africa and for being a black person that her family instilled in her. 

54kibo

Driven by these multiple experiences, Nana decided to build something that was tangible, something that introduces a new vocabulary for Africa. After exploring a number of ideas over the years, design seemed like a no brainer.

54kibo

“People globally appreciate beauty. When you see beautiful design in art, fashion or home decor, it is undeniable – it draws you in”, she explained.” The uniqueness and beauty of contemporary African design is undeniable, it invites you to learn, explore its origins, learn something new about Africa, about the diaspora, about the world and hopefully about yourself.”

Adinkra inspired swaddles and kids blankets

How would you describe African aesthetic and design?

The 54 in 54kibo represents the 54 countries that are in Africa because every country in the continent has so much creativity and beauty to offer! The African aesthetic is vibrant, unique, and most importantly, visually new and appealing in the home decor category.

Contrary to common knowledge, African design is not limited to tribal designs. It covers a broad spectrum that includes minimalist designs, and colorful, bold, maximalist designs.

Design is driven by people, their daily experiences, aspirations and dreams. With over a billion people in Africa and the diaspora; and thanks to a growing and more demanding middle class with easier access to technology and information, African art and design is flourishing.

African design is adding a flair of innovation to the design world by being truly distinctive in a relatively homogeneous market place. Thebe Magugu becoming the first LVMH prize recipient from Africa, at this point in time is not a coincidence. There is already a pipeline of creative talent in Africa and the diaspora that is ready to be discovered and experienced.

At 54kibo, we’re curating this talent and making it frictionless to shop luxury and uniquely beautiful home decor. For example, we now have a trade program for interior designers, architects and other design professionals which makes it easier to shop from multiple designers from the diaspora on one platform.

This reduces the effort required to research and navigate multiple websites, negotiate terms and navigate logistics, payment systems, customs, quality issues and multiple other hurdles. We received a shipment of the Ile-Ila Alaafia rocker chair  today and we’re all still in awe of its bold design and beauty! Now our customers can enjoy this beauty without having to think about and deal with the hurdles. 

To what would you attribute the growing popularity of African aesthetics?

There continues to be an explosion in demand for Contemporary African art and fashion in the U.S. and globally. For example when I first saw art by Eddie Ilunga, from Democratic Republic of Congo, three years ago in New York it was selling for $10k, this month his work sold for over $75k at Sothebys.

That is an amazing return on investment.  For the home furnishings sector, which is often influenced by art and fashion trends, two years ago IKEA partnered with Design Indaba in South Africa to create a global collection, featuring a collection of prolific African designers that launched this year. We are thrilled to see this, as it is extraordinarily validating for our business proposition.  

In general, we now live in a world that is increasingly digitally connected and global; and there is a growing population of consumers with cosmopolitan tastes who are eager to explore the undiscovered corners of this world. They’re looking for the unique, the unexplored.

There is a whole creative world in Africa and the diaspora – some of the world’s most beautiful and least well-known designs – all waiting to be experienced. For black consumers, in addition to the above, our value-add is also representation.

Our first shipment of this exquisite pillow collection from Yael et Valerie based in Haiti, sold out before we could even list it! We’re providing access to a previously overlooked source of beauty, from designers who look like them. Offering a new and fresh perspective of design to all our customers and introducing designers in Africa and the diaspora to the world.

54kibo

How do you decide what items to carry?

When choosing our items, we look at the quality of each piece, the distinctiveness of the design, the designer’s story and most importantly, consider the needs of our customers and where the piece might reside in their life.

There is so much talent in the industry, it’s hard to narrow down our selection but we have a team with experienced merchandisers who have worked in the home category at major retailers.

We also work closely with leading interior designers in the New York area who help guide our selections. For example, we’ve met a lot of amazing product designers and interior designers through the Black Artist + Designers Guild, founded by Malene Barnett.

This Summer, 54kibo participated in the BADG Transcend space at NY NOW Trade Show. The space was designed and transformed with bold and creative pieces by interior designers Beth Diana Smith and Kiyonda Powell. Their space clearly showcased black design in a modern and beautiful way, which also won them the IFDA award for most Innovative Design.

Where do you see the business in 5 years?

It is ambitious but we want to build a global retail brand. To become the world’s go-to source for home décor with contemporary African design. We currently have over 30 incredible designers on the platform and will be adding more. We have 450 skus listed but this is less than 2% of the products available to us.

So, if customers prove us right and if we can achieve our sales targets in the short term, we plan to expand our products by 5x over the next twelve months. We look forward to continue collaborating with more product designers, interior designers, other retailers, and the media to showcase Contemporary African Design throughout the US, and ultimately, the world.


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National Museum of African American History and Culture to acquire Ebony and Jet Archives

The National Museum of African American History and Culture will acquire a significant portion of the archive of the Johnson Publishing Company, the publisher of Ebony and Jet magazines. The acquisition is pending court approval and the closing of the sale.

A consortium of foundations—the Ford Foundation, the J. Paul Getty Trust, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation—is making this acquisition possible. The consortium will transfer the archive to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the Getty Research Institute.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The archive, purchased at auction for $30 million, includes more than four million prints, negatives, and media that explored, celebrated and documented African American life from the 1940s and into the 21st century.

“It is a distinct honor for the museum to be invited to join the Getty Research Institute and other leading cultural institutions to safeguard and share with the world this incomparable collection of photographs,” said Spencer Crew, acting director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

“We applaud the generosity of the consortium of foundations that made this acquisition possible.  And we pay homage to the vision of John H. Johnson and his commitment to bringing to the nation and the world, the story of the African American experience—in all its complexity and all its richness. Ebony and Jet were the only places where African Americans could see themselves. They were the visual record of our beauty, humanity, dignity, grace, and our accomplishments.

“Being the steward of the archive is an extraordinary responsibility, and we are humbled to play a critical role in bringing new life to these images. With the depth of its curatorial expertise and the technical skills in digitization, the Museum stands ready to marshall its forces to make this archive accessible to the widest possible audience.  We are honored to work with our recipient colleagues to make this gift to the nation possible.”

National Museum of African American History and Culture

The Museum has built a distinctive photography collection that includes more than 25,000 prints, negatives, and photographic materials. Photographers represented in the collection include Anthony Barboza, Cornelius M. Battey, Arthur P. Bedou, Bruce Davidson, Charles “Teenie” Harris, Danny Lyon, Jack Mitchell, Jeanne Moutoussamy-Ashe, Gordon Parks, P. H. Polk, Addison Scurlock, Lorna Simpson, Aaron Siskind, James Van Der Zee, Carrie Mae Weems, and Ernest Withers.

Read more about this acquisition on the Smithsonian website.

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New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center Acquires Collection of Fab 5 Freddy

Some 120 boxes of archived notebooks, screenplays, fliers, and photography from the collection of hip-hop legend Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite are headed to the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem.

Fab 5 Freddy

More than half the materials in the archive are audio and video, though also included in the acquisition are photographs by Brathwaite—candid snapshots of rap icons such as Notorious B.I.G., Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, and P. Diddy.

Fred “Fab 5 Freddy” Brathwaite is a rapper, producer, and filmmaker who emerged in New York’s downtown scene during the 1970’s and early 1980’s. He went on to be the host of MTV’s popular music program, Yo! MTV Raps.

Fab 5 Freddy
Fab 5 Freddy and Jean-Michel Basquiat

In a statement, Brathwaite said, “Growing up in Bed-Stuy [in] Brooklyn, our home was full of books and periodicals, as my dad was a ferocious reader.” He recalled visiting the Schomburg at his father’s suggestion. There, he came across “books by and about people like Marcus Garvey, Malcolm X, James Baldwin, J.A. Rogers, and one of my favorites as a kid, a book called Harlem on My Mind, filled with photos and stories on the history of Black Americans living in Harlem.”

Highlights from his collection include VHS recordings of rap music videos, three screenplays, and countless handwritten notes of ideas. Brathwaite continued, “Knowing my archive will be at the Schomburg, now and forever, is both gratifying and very humbling.”

 

Source: ART News

Feature Image: The Source

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Black Owned Art Galleries & Museums You Should Know

Hello Art Lovers! We’ve compiled a list of Black owned art galleries located across the country and some internationally. Be sure to check them out. #BlackArtMatters

Black Owned Art Galleries

Hammonds House Museum (Atlanta, GA)

black owned galleries

Rush Arts Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)

The Museum of African American Art (Philadelphia, PA)

The Colored Girls Museum (Philadelphia, PA)

Black Owned Art Galleries

Northwest African American Museum (Seattle, WA)

The Mayme A. Clayton Library and Museum (Culver City, CA)

Woodcuts Fine Art Gallery (Nashville, TN)

Benoit Gallery (Lafayette, LA)

Essie Green Galleries (New York, NY)

The Studio Museum (New York, NY)

Black Owned Art Galleries

MoCADA, Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (Brooklyn, NY)

Black Owned Art Galleries

California African American Museum (Los Angeles, CA )

The William Grant Still Arts Center  (Los Angeles, CA)

Gallery Chuma (Charleston, SC)

Lybenson’s Gallery (Beaufort, SC)

Sabree’s Gallery of the Arts (Savannah, GA)

Annie’s Art Gallery (Upper Marlboro, MD)

Stella Jones Gallery (New Orleans, LA)

Black Owned Art Galleries

Jonathan Green Studios (Charleston, SC)

E&S Gallery (Louisville, KY)

Black Owned Art Galleries

Mariane Ibrahim Gallery (Seattle, WA)

ZuCot Gallery (Atlanta, GA)

Terrance Osbourne Gallery (New Orleans, LA)

Nike Art Gallery (Lagos, Nigeria)

Berj Art Gallery (Labone, Ghana)

 

-Tony O. Lawson


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Black Owned Stationery Businesses You Should Know

Although it seems that nowadays, most communication is done via technology, there’s still a large number of people that have a preference for dope stationery that can be used for work, school, and special events.

Check out these Black owned stationery businesses if you’re tryna get that paper.

Black Owned Stationery Businesses

Entrepreneurs Color Too

Prnt’d

Bliss & Faith

Coco’s Vision

 

JD& Brooklyn

Keynote Stationery

Maker’s Ave

Mariposa Studios

MJ & Hope

Naomi Love Designs

Oh So Paper Co.

Page Eleven Paper Goods

Pristine Paperie

QT Planner Co.

Scrapcraftastic

Black Owned Stationery Businesses

Shays Budget Shop

Simply Me Kish

Tawana Simone

The DynaSmiles by DNT

The Jewel Box

CRWND Illustrations

Goldmine & Coco (feature image)

Black Owned Stationery Businesses

 

-Tony O. Lawson

If you would like to add your business to this list (or another) SUBMIT HERE.


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Philanthropists Eddie and Sylvia Brown donate $3.5 million to the Baltimore Museum of Art

The Baltimore Museum of Art announced Friday that philanthropists Eddie and Sylvia Brown are giving the organization $3.5 million to endow the position of chief curator.

Eddie and Sylvia Brown

The couple’s gift will provide a new way of paying for the post of the museum’s chief curator, the person responsible for overseeing the BMA’s 95,000-item collection and for supervising the museum’s curators, conservators and registrars. The position replaces the former job of deputy director of curatorial affairs role that was held until last summer by Jay Fisher.

Amy Sherald’s Planes, rockets, and the spaces in between (2018)

Asma Naeem, a graduate of the Johns Hopkins University, was appointed chief curator last August. Before coming to the BMA, Naeem was a curator at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery. Fisher is now director of Matisse studies at the museum.

Now that the chief curator position is endowed, the funds previously allocated to paying Naeem’s salary and other expenses of that job can be freed for other operating expenses, according to a museum spokeswoman.

The Thinker by Auguste Rodin

The Browns previously have given major gifts to other Baltimore-area cultural institutions, including to the Maryland Institute, College of Art, where the media studies building bears their name.

Eddie Brown founded Brown Capital Management, a Baltimore investment firm with more than $8 billion in assets under management. With his wife, Sylvia, he established a foundation in their names that focuses on improving lives in inner-city Baltimore.

In a museum news release, the couple said their most recent gift was inspired by museum director Christopher Bedford’s efforts to make the BMA more diverse and inclusive.

“In recent years, the museum’s commitment to excellence has been joined with a vision to examine and present a more fulsome picture of art history, giving a platform to those artists that have previously been underrepresented or left entirely out of our cultural dialogues,” the Browns said in a joint statement.

“With the appointment of Dr. Naeem … this seemed the perfect moment to expand our support for the museum.”

 

Source: The Baltimore Sun

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World’s Largest Museum dedicated to Black Civilizations opens in Senegal

After 52 years of waiting, Senegal is finally opening what has been described as the largest museum of Black civilization in the capital, Dakar.

With close to 14,000 square metres of floor space and capacity for 18,000 exhibits, the new Museums of Black Civilizations is already capable of competing with the National Museum of African American History in Washington.

The exhibition halls include Africa Now, showcasing contemporary African art and The Caravan and the Caravel, which tells the story of the trade in human beings – across the Atlantic and through the Sahara – that gave rise to new communities of Africans in the Americas.

“Kachireme” by Cuban artist Leandro Soto finds parallels between Nigerian ancestral spirits and Native American beliefs

These diaspora communities – such as in Brazil, the United States and the Caribbean – are recognized as African civilizations in their own right.

Since the museum could contain works owned by France since colonization, Senegal’s culture minister has called for the restitution by France of all Senegalese artwork on the back of a French report urging the return of African art treasures.

senegal
Visitors look at exhibits at the newly inaugurated Museum of Black Civilizations in Dakar, Senegal REUTERS/Zohra Bensemra

Apart from suffering from the negative consequences of colonialism, Africans have had to negotiate for the return of valuable historical cultural artifacts that were smuggled out of their countries.

These priceless monuments, which symbolize African identity are currently scattered across the world, with an impressive number in British and French Museums.

This striated kifwebe mask hails from the Democratic Republic of Congo

Many African countries have called for the return of these treasures but are yet to receive any positive response from these western countries, which are making huge sums of money from these objects, with some even insisting that they were obtained legally.

The museum has a pan-African focus with pieces from across Africa and the Caribbean

French President Emmanuel Macron recently announced that his country will return 26 artifacts taken from Benin in 1892. The thrones and statues, currently on display at the Quai Branly museum in Paris, were taken during a colonial war against the then Kingdom of Dahomey.

Senegal’s late president Leopold Sedar Senghor was the first to propose the idea of a museum about the civilizations of black Africa during a world festival of black artists in Dakar in 1966.

In December 2011, Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade laid the foundation stone in the capital Dakar but works were suspended during a political change until the subsequent leader, Macky Sall set the project rolling between December 2013 and December 2015.

The museum was built in part to a $34.6 million donation from China.

 

Source: BBC


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10 Tips For Photographing Darker Skin Tones

No, you’re not crazy: photographing darker skin tones, like mine, is harder than photographing lighter ones. Before anyone goes and reports me for reverse racism, which isn’t a thing, lets talk about this in purely technical terms.

From the 1950s well into the 1980s, Kodak, the standard in film processing, provided photo labs with “Shirley cards,” photos meant to be used to calibrate skin tones and light levels for photo printing.

There were many “Shirleys” over the decades (the name came from the original model)—but as you might assume, they were all fair-skinned Caucasian women. So unless you processed your own images, they were developed to best complement light skin—no matter the skin tones or hues in your photos. Further, the dynamic range of Kodak film was biased toward lighter skin.

Kodak “Shirley cards.”

This created a situation in which photos of people with darker skin, especially photos with both lighter and darker skin tones in them, were very difficult to expose properly. In an NPR interview, photographer Syreeta McFadden explained, “A lot of [the design of film and motion technology] was conceived with the idea of the best representation of white people.

And I don’t mean to say that it was a deliberate and exclusionary practice, but [it was] much more of a willful obliviousness, if you will. So color film in its early stages pretty much developed around trying to measure the image against white skin.”

Thankfully, that is less of an issue now. Technology has gotten better (although there have been some problems along the way). Color film and digital color sensors don’t butcher darker skin tones anymore (hooray!), but we aren’t totally out of the woods yet. If, like me, you love to use older film presets or if you just want to photograph a range of subjects, you need to be cognizant of the default toward lighter skin and how to correct it.

With that in mind, a question remains: What is the best way to photograph darker skin tones? Like a softbox or a white wall, lighter skin picks up and reflects light rather easily. This helps photographers better capture it with low levels of flash or in low-wattage light. Darker skin, however, isn’t as reflective, so how you light your subjects and choose backgrounds must change, to consciously and successfully light people with darker skin.

TEN TIPS FOR PHOTOGRAPHING DARKER SKIN TONES

1. For a photo including people with different skin tones, place your primary light source closer to the subject with darker skin. Note that if you do this, you may have to burn a little in post to make sure the subjects with lighter skin aren’t too bright.

This isn’t to say that you should blow out their skin or use only one light source. If you are shooting outdoors, bring in a reflector or have your darker-skinned subject interact in closer proximity to the light source.

 

2. Be conscious of undertones. Darker skin has undertones, just like lighter ones do. As you choose environments for portraiture, look for complementary colors that work well with the undertones for a soothing portrait, or contrasting or clashing ones for a more provocative look.

For example: I leaned into Jihaari’s skin’s orange undertones by placing him in compositional opposition to a sign with similar colors (left photo). And you can see how the subtle inclusion of red in the setting of the photo on the right goes smoothly with Kelechi’s undertones.

3. Keep lighting off the walls for a more cinematic feel—you want to create depth with your imagery. Using varying stages of light allows you to have a more dynamic frame.

Use a hair light. Don’t rob your subjects of the complexity and detail in their hair by not lighting it properly. This makes sense for everyone whose hair is dark. Make sure your have light that appropriately frames your subject’s hair.

4. Use a hair light. Don’t rob your subjects of the complexity and detail in their hair by not lighting it properly. This makes sense for everyone whose hair is dark. Make sure your have light that appropriately frames your subject’s hair.

5. Embrace the beauty of a well-lit silhouette and how it drapes light around darker skin features.

This image (below) is a favorite of mine. In low light, I will often opt for a silhouette, using the strongest light to kiss the edges of someone’s visage. It gives an effect of mystery and grandeur.

PHOTOGRAPHING DARKER SKIN TONES

6. Employ the Highlights slider in Adobe Photoshop Lightroom CC or Curves adjustments in Photoshop CC to create soft contrast across darker skin. Even light looks magical on darker skin tones; it provides tonality and detail.

7. Harsh light is more forgiving, yes, but reflective light is your best friend. Use that to your advantage. Bouncing light or using diffusers reveals the complexity of facial features.

8. Resist the urge to lighten someone up…. I’ll say it again for the folks in the back: Properly lighting dark skin is not the same as dodging dark skin in Photoshop.

9. If you have multiple skin tones, set the median and use Photoshop’s Dodge tool and Burn tool to help you out. This is something you want to employ only if you have just one light source—for instance, if you’re shooting outdoors and have no way to soften the light. If this is the case, shoot each subject properly exposed so you have a digital example of what their skin tone is like, and then use Photoshop to closely achieve that.

10. With skin tones in general, pay attention to the background you’re using. Don’t tuck darker-skinned subjects against dark backgrounds unless you’re going to light them separately.

 

 

As we slowly march to a more racially equitable future, it’s imperative that we know how to light various skin tones properly to give them the visibility they deserve. Study the work of artists who do a great job lighting various skin tones and where the light they use is coming from. That’s what helped me on my journey to being a better artist.

 

By Aundre Larrow

Photographs by Aundre Larrow. Visit his portfolio site to see more of his work