In the 1960s the Fisk University Galleries received a major gift of artwork from the Harmon Foundation, a leading American organization devoted to the support and promotion of African and African American artists. Its 1961 exhibition Art From Africa of Our Time took place while African nations were gaining independence from colonial rule and Freedom Riders protested segregation in the American South; artists from both continents developed new visual languages around shared political concerns. In the fall of 2022, Fisk University Galleries will present African Modernism in America, 1947-67, which will echo and expand upon the original show, adding additional works by African artists that were shown at American museums at the time, as well as a new commission by Nigerian sculptor Ndidi Dike. Through a scholarly publication, it will examine the question of why and how African modernism entered the cultural bloodstream at the moment it did; it will also interrogate the collecting histories of the predominantly white institutions, including the Harmon Foundation, that first presented modern African art in the United States.
“We strive to support institutions that share our artist-centered values. The small grassroots arts organizations as well as the museums that comprise our grantees provide invaluable opportunities for artists to express their unique perspectives on the pressing urgencies of the day. We hope that our grants help to amplify artists’ voices within their communities, in national discussions and debates, and across platforms in the international contemporary art world.”
Joel Wachs, President