American Express Is Partnering With Julie Mehretu, Kehinde Wiley, And Harlem Studio Museum To Support Black Artists
Photo by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for American Express

Julie Mehretu, and Kehinde Wiley, are already household names in the contemporary art world. Now they’re working with American Express to support the next generation of great Black artists

The pair of artists are elevating the brand’s Consumer Platinum Card with distinctive designs that speak to the power of their perspective. “We are often thinking about – for our premium products – how we can make them better, how we can make them special. And we’re oftentimes trying to think about areas that are totally unexpected of a credit card,” revealed Rafael Mason, Senior Vice President, US Premium Products and Loyalty Programs at American Express. 

Their U.S. consumer Platinum Card was recently revamped to allow cardholders additional “lifestyle benefits and experiences.” The Platinum x Julie Mehretu and Platinum x Kehinde Wiley card designs will be unveiled to the world in Miami during Art Basel. Cardholders will be able to select one of the designs to add to their wallets and learn more about what their card servicer is doing to engage with them intellectually. 

“Julie and Kehinde are two of the great artists of our time. I think they’re two of the great artists of any time. I think they both have helped the whole world reconsider what great art is and what can be said through great art changing the way that we think about the past things changing the way that we think about the present. I cannot think of two more inspiring people,” Mason continued. 

“From the very beginning, we wanted to collaborate with the two artists that we’ve announced today. So they were the two artists at the very top of our list.” 

The large scale of Mehretu’s work and the power of Wiley’s portraits specifically inspires Mason. “I think of Picasso’s Guernica and Julie’s murals, you encounter so much energy and so much meaning. I’m just in awe,” he added.

Julie Mehretu (Photo: Getty Images for American Express)

 “If you think about the history of Western art portrait painting, you know, for many years, for centuries, you didn’t have diverse sets of people represented in those, in those paintings, in those portraits. And so what I love about Kehinde is the way that he kind of takes some of those very classical compositions, turns them upside down and features beauty in all of its forms from all over the world people who look like you and me, are also very much front and center, and so that’s, that’s really powerful to see,” said Mason. 

Design has been an integral part of American Express offering unique services to their consumers. After all, the credit card servicer is the company behind the coveted Black card. Draping the weighty square in dark coating earned them name drops from Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West, and Jay Z plus the esteem of showboating shopaholics the world over. 

Their partnership will also include the firm funding a $1 million in sponsorship to The Studio Museum in Harlem to “support its work as the nexus for artists of African descent, locally, nationally, and internationally.” In October 2020, American Express earmarked $1 billion to be used to “promote racial, ethnic and gender equity for colleagues, customers and communities.” Their 12th annual Small Business Saturday event featuring targeted initiatives designed “to drive $100 billion in reported consumer spending,” at small businesses across the nation will take place on November 27. 

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“Art is, of course, one of the most meaningful territories of experience for society. And so it felt meaningful for us to make a contribution to an institution that has not only changed the arts world but has changed the world. Those are the kinds of voices that inspire us. And so it felt like the right way to give back,” said Mason. 

Mehretu and Wiley each participated in the museum’s lauded Artists-in-Residence program on their way to becoming immortalized in popular shows, sought after catalogs and definitive texts like The Obama Portraits. Established in 1968, the program has been a prime launchpad for many impressive career trajectories in the field. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – NOVEMBER 17: Director & Chief Curator for The Studio Museum ThPhoto by Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for American Express

“There is great potential in this collaboration with American Express,” said Thelma Golden, who began her career at Studio Museum in Harlem in 1987 and was named its Director and Chief Curator in 2005. “American Express doesn’t just bring funding, it shines a light on the important work being done at our institution. We’re deeply grateful to the incredible artists who have come through our doors, such as Julie Mehretu and Kehinde Wiley, and who continue to inspire generations of emerging artists at the Studio Museum.”

The partnership was the brainchild of Mason, an authentic supporter of the institution. “We have been on a journey to celebrate through the platinum membership many facets of life,” he said. 

One of the many Black executives advocating for their communities within a corporate structure Mason has been a long time patron of the museum and is an avid admirer of Golden’s work championing those it supports 

 “I have been a huge fan of the studio museum in Harlem ever since I was a small child one,” he said. 

“I’ve seen folks on 125th Street go up to Thelma and say, ‘Hey, museum, lady! Hey museum, lady! So the Studio Museum is very much not only a great arts institution, but it’s a part of the fabric of the Harlem community. And I think for all folks of African descent who live in New York city, it’s also this amazing hub of life and culture.”

Learn more about American Express’ commitment to corporate responsibility here.