Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art in Bentonville announced today its acquisition of artworks by Amy Sherald, Marie Watt, Lorraine O’Grady and Dyani White Hawk, more proof of the museum’s commitment to inclusivity in its collection.
In a press release, Chief Curator Austen Barron Baily notes the museum’s pursuit of the better representation of women and people of color in its collection, a move that other museums, like the Baltimore Museum of Art, are making to address years of male dominance on the walls:
“These acquisitions demonstrate Crystal Bridges’ commitment to developing an inclusive American art collection — and exhibition program,” said Austen Barron Bailly, chief curator, Crystal Bridges. “We made great strides in 2019 by organizing and presenting exhibitions that featured artists from a wide range of backgrounds, including female artists of color such as Amy Sherald; Men of Steel, Women of Wonder; and Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices 1950s to Now. Looking ahead to a new decade, we are excited to continue to highlight the contributions of underrepresented artists to American art history, many of whom are introduced to Crystal Bridges audiences through our exhibitions.”
The works include “Precious jewels by the sea” by Amy Sherald, whose portrait of Michelle Obama for the National Portrait Gallery brought her work to the fore. The 10-by-9-foot painting shows four teenagers of color gazing intently at the viewer, posed against a bright blue sky and beside a red and white striped umbrella in Sherald’s characteristic flat style. Of her work, Sherald is quoted as saying, “I look at America’s heart — people, landscapes, and cityscapes — and I see it as an opportunity to add to an American art narrative. … I paint because I am looking for versions of myself in art history and in the world.” The work will go on exhibit in early 2020.
The museum also acquired “Companion Species (Speech Bubble),” by Portland, Ore., artist Marie Watt, a member of the Seneca Nation who was an artist in residence in Northwest Arkansas in November 2018. The 11-by-16-foot sculpture of reclaimed blankets features words like “neighbor,” “companion,” “mother,” “father” and “brother” embroidered by stitchers who participated in sewing circles at Crystal Bridges, the University of Arkansas, the Arts Center of the Ozarks in Springdale and the Cherokee Arts Center in Tahlequah, Okla. Crystal Bridges’ Mindy Besaw, who curated “Art for a New Understanding: Native Voices 1950s to Now,” noted the personal connection Watt has to Northwest Arkansas. The work will be shown in fall 2020.
Performance artist Lorraine O’Grady’s photographic series “Untitled (Mlle Bourgeoise Noire” documents her feminist performances in the early 1980s as “Miss Black Middle Class 1955.” O’Grady wore a gown and cape made of 180 pairs of white gloves, gave away 36 white flowers, beat herself with a white cat-o-nine tails and shouted poems criticizing the mainstream art worlds. It will go on view in 2020.
Sičangu Lakota artist Dyani White Hawk refers to traditional Native American quillwork in her geometrical acrylic on canvas “She Gives (Quiet Strength V), repeating diamonds in black and white atop a copper background. It will go on view in spring 2020.
The Baltimore Museum of Art announced earlier in 2019 that it will acquire only work by women in 2020 and that 19 of its 22 exhibits scheduled will show work exclusively by women, including a work by a transgender woman. Two other exhibits will focus on how male artists depict women, and another will honor former BMA director Adelyn Breeskin.