African American Art at The Cleveland Museum of Art

Excerpt from a new publication in celebration of tenth anniversary of the museum's African American Advisory Committee which has nurtured the museum's collecting of art by African American artists.

Front cover: Wrapping it Up at the Layfayette (detail), 1974. Romare  Bearden Art. Romare Howard Bearden Foundation Inc. 
Licensed by VAGA, New York, NY.

Since opening its doors to the public nearly a century ago, the Cleveland Museum of Art has evolved into an institution world-renowned for its encyclopedic permanent collection exhibiting considerable breadth and outstanding excellence. Its longstanding strategy for acquiring artworks—one that emphasizes quality over quantity—has resulted in holdings that are comprehensive yet concise. Unlike its peers, the Cleveland Museum of Art has to a great extent made its acquisitionsthrough purchases as opposed to gifts; as a result, its collection has been carefully fashioned to reflect the most important and compelling developments in the history of art.

Among the museum’s many notable holdings is a distinguished group of more than 200 works by African American artists encompassing a wide variety of subjects, themes, styles, and media. The museum’s collection of African American art ranges in date from a Civil War-era oil painting by Robert S. Duncanson to a digital photograph created by Hank Willis Thomas in 2011. Highlights are numerous, including readily acknowledged masterpieces by Edmonia Lewis, Aaron Douglas, Augusta Savage, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Romare Bearden, Martin Puryear, and Carrie Mae Weems. Also outstanding is a superb collection of 34 vintage images by the Harlem Renaissance photographer James Van Der Zee.

--Mark Cole
Associate Curator of American Painting and Sculpture 








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