Before the black square became the official aesthetic of doth that protest too much, Black artists and curators were using their lenses, brushes, and keystrokes to translate cultural experiences, diversify collections, and add context to symbols.  

A 2019 study by the nonprofit Public Library of Science, found that approximately 85.4% of artists on display in major U.S. museums are White. The stories behind the canvases are just as bland. The Mellon Foundation found that 88% of people hired for executive and conservation roles in leadership at these institutions were white as well. 

"Blue Cumulus" Rihanna, Lorna Simpson
Rihanna by Lorna Simpson Of Earth & Sky, 2020 Photographic collage Dimensions variable © Lorna Simpson Courtesy of the artist and Hauser & Wirth

Anecdotal instances of Black art being systematically appropriated and devalued tumbled out this summer with Black professionals speaking openly about their struggles. But amidst the empty virtue signaling and ironic attempts to acquire diversity for cents on the dollar, is a group of creators and educators determined to make a difference. 

Black curators and artists are striving higher and stretching further to introduce new ideas about identity, race, and power, combat the evils of misogynoir and erasure, and recognize the collective contributions of the Black community. 

Meet 14 of these contemporary artists and curators you should know below. 

TOPICS: