The New Black Vanguard an exhibition of photographs by young Black artists working in Africa and across the African diaspora, celebrates Black creativity and underlines the cross-pollination that occurs between art, fashion, and culture. For many decades, images by Black photographers were rarely found in mainstream fashion magazines. That is changing—and many of the artists in this show are the ones making that happen.
Curator and art critic Antwaun Sargent selected 25 emerging talents for this exhibition. They include Tyler Mitchell, the first African American to shoot a cover for Vogue in the magazine’s 125-year history, and Awol Erizku, whose work has appeared in Vogue, GQ, and the >New York Times, and at the Museum of Modern Art. The artists create in vastly different contexts, from New York and Johannesburg to Lagos and London. Their work has been featured in traditional lifestyle magazines, ad campaigns, and museums, as well as on their individual social media channels.
Since their images are constructed, often in association with stylists, fashion and set designers, and models, the exhibition provides an opportunity to examine the rarely explored collaborative nature of fashion and celebrity photography. It is the stylist who selects the clothing and pulls together all aspects of the look. The museum’s installation will be unique, as we pay tribute to the Black stylist as integral to the creation of a fashion photograph by adding three styled mannequins to the exhibition. Each look will demonstrate the creativity and vision of a different stylist.
For Sargent, the works in The New Black Vanguard are not just “fashion” photographs but also examples of visual activism. British photographer Campbell Addy reminds us that “fashion has always been a barometer for measuring privilege, power, class, and freedom. To play with fashion is to play with one’s representation in the world.”