Wednesday, September 21, 2016

First Commercial Gallery in The UK for Self-Taught Artists

Jarvis Cocker helps launch first commercial gallery in the UK for self-taught artists

James Brett and Jarvis Cocker are collaborating for The Gallery of Everything (Image: © 2016 Joas Souza. Courtesy of The Gallery of Everything)

Jarvis Cocker, the British musician who famously sang about studying sculpture at Central Saint Martins college of art, is to collaborate on the inaugural exhibition at The Gallery of Everything—the UK’s first commercial gallery dedicated to self-taught artists. Its aim, according to a statement, is to “communicate an alternative history of art”.

All proceeds raised from sales at the gallery, due to open in a former barber shop in Marylebone on 25 September, will go towards the non-profit activities of The Museum of Everything. The institution, dedicated to the exhibition and advancement of private and non-academic artists, was established in north London in 2009. 

“As The Museum of Everything continues its mission around the globe, The Gallery of Everything will be its home for collectors and museums, secret makers and do-ers, and for private art made public,” says the museum's founder James Brett. 

The first exhibition at the gallery takes its name from—and features artists made famous by—Cocker’s 1998 Channel 4 documentary about non-academic art, Journeys into the Outside. They include Howard Finster, whose work was picked up by the US rock band Talking Heads (prices range from £3,000 to £30,000), and the self-appointed visionary St EOM (his art is not for sale). The rarely shown TV series will also be screened as part of the show (until 20 November). Cocker, meanwhile, is due to take part in several discussions at the gallery.

The gallery will also participate in Frieze Masters this year (6-9 October), showing works by artists discovered by Jean Dubuffet and displayed in his experimental Parisian salon in 1947, Le Foyer de l’Art Brut. They include the portraitist Aloïse Corbaz; Juva, a lapsed nobleman and academic who obsessively collected flint stones; and several volcanic stone carvings named after the Swiss collector Josef Müller, known only as Les Barbus Müller. Many of the works have never been on the market before.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016


Sanford Biggers, "Laocoon," 2015.

Many contemporary artists respond to instances of police brutality, racism, xenophobia, and homophobia through their creative practices. In the wake of the recent attack on the LGBT community in Orlando, for instance, the art community rallied around the victims. Pioneer Works in Brooklyn held a vigil concert.Terence Koh recited the names of the Orlando victims in a meditative performance at Andrew Edlin gallery. Hank Willis Thomas posted a photo on his Instagram of an enormous flag he’d made featuring some 13,000 stars—one for every victim of gun violence in the U.S. in 2015.
As new political movements like Black Lives Matter have gained influence in recent years, social practice has risen in stature and popularity in the art world. This has contributed to the hypervisibility of cultures that have, for a long time, operated along the margins—consider how integral the work of Theaster Gates has become to at risk communities in the South Side of Chicago, or how Project Row Houses by Rick Lowe, taking inspiration from Joseph Beuys, has helped revitalize a section of Houston’s Third Ward. But there is a new wave of contemporary work influenced by racial injustices, one that has arisen in the last two years and is decidedly more sensational, predominantly focusing on pain and trauma inflicted upon the black body. Artists have made systemic racism look sexy; galleries have made it desirable for collectors. It has, in other words, gonemainstream. With this paradoxical commercial focus, political art that responds to issues surrounding race is in danger of becoming mere spectacle, a provocation marketed for consumption, rather than a catalyst for social change.
Too often, I wonder if artists responding to Black Lives Matter are doing so because they truly are concerned about black lives, or if they simply recognize the financial and critical benefits that go along with creating work around these subjects. The year 2015 was a watershed in the new art responding to racism, arriving just after two separate grand juries failed to indict police officers who killed unarmed black men—Michael Brown in Missouri and Eric Garner in New York. Another shattering incident was the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, who mysteriously died while in custody, en route to a local police station. Artists responded to these events in different ways. At the Venice Biennale, Adam Pendleton covered the walls of the Belgian Pavilion with large panels that read BLACK LIVES MATTER. Robert Longo made a hyperrealist charcoal drawing of the heavily armed Ferguson, Missouri police, which was later purchased by the Broad museum in Los Angeles. Photographer Devin Allen—who was, in fact, protesting while documenting (or vice-versa) the 2015 Baltimore protests in response to Gray’s death—captured a profound image of the Black Lives Matter movement that ended up in Time magazine.
There were, however, two artists—both white—inspired by Brown who stand out in particular for their unsettling crudeness. In March 2015, Kenneth Goldsmith gave a public performance in which he read aloud Brown’s autopsy report, with slight edits to the text, during a conference at Brown University. A few months later, Ti-Rock Moore, a New Orleans-based artist, exhibited a realistic life-size sculpture of Brown’s body, lying face down, recreating the moment after he was killed, taking his last few breaths before dying. Both of these pieces sparked wide-ranging criticism, but resulted in few repercussions for the artists. Goldsmith was later profiled rather glowingly in the New Yorker. And even after Brown’s father shared his disgust about Moore’s lifelike sculpture of his son, the work remained on view in a Chicago art gallery. The artist then unapologetically admitted that she creates her so-called socially relevant work for profit in an interview withPelican Bomb. “My art is expensive to make. I am very far in the hole, and it has gotten to the point that I must start making money to be able to make more art,” Moore said.
This is lewd voyeurism masquerading as empathy. Moore’s case is even worse for being sanctioned by a commercial gallery. (Her sculpture of Brown was not for sale, as Moore told the Chicago Tribune, but other works—including one that depicts the Confederate flag—did sell.) The platform that makes space for a sculpture of a black corpse by a white woman only further perpetuates the exploitation of black traumatic experiences. This co-optation is a general concern for artists interested in the new wave of social activism and racial justice. In a 2015 interview with Milk, the performance artist Clifford Owens said:
I know that it [Black Lives Matter Movement] is important but my concern is that the movement is an image. It’s about a representation of blackness and I don’t know if that’s enough. I don’t know if black American artists are doing enough because what I see some Black American artists do is use the image of #BlackLivesMatter to promote their own interests. Some have even made commodity out of the movement.
Owens’s argument is not a new one. The extent to which the representation of blackness by artists and institutions is either enlightening or degrading has been debated for as long as artists and institutions have been representing blackness. In 1971, 15 artists withdrew from the Whitney Museum’s “Contemporary Black Artists in America” as a result of the show being exclusively organized by white curators. In 1999, Kara Walker’s A Means to An End, a five-panel etching depicting a grim antebellum scene with a pregnant slave and her abusive master, was censored from a show at the Detroit Institute of Arts after intense condemnation from representatives of the museum’s Friends of African and African American Art. The group, according to theDetroit Free Press, “complained that the piece had offensive racial overtones.”
The representation of the black image in response to issues championed by Black Lives Matter is something else entirely, though. In these works, blackness becomes a metaphor for the movement itself, a kind of branding that can be bought, sold, marketed, and consumed. This played out in comments Biggers made aboutLaocoön recently at a conference on art and race in Detroit. The artist showed a video of the artwork, and the room was silent. “He’s on a pump, so he’s actually breathing his last breaths,” Biggers told the audience, which responded with a collective moan. “Ultimately, I think this is about the loss of trust and authority. Bill Cosby was America’s father figure, and through recent events we lost trust in him. We’ve lost trust in police, and their authority because they take our bodies.”
In the conference, Biggers went on to share that “my work does live inside of white cubes, museums, galleries and so on, but I do have opportunities to take it out, because I think context adds to the theme of the piece.” Biggers is not naïve about the importance of context, especially when presenting blackness, but this awareness makes Laocoön all the more perplexing. In recreating the image of Brown, frozen in lifelessness, Biggers only valorizes the power of authority he aims to critique, and places it in a space that is necessarily voyeuristic—the white cube, where objects are gawked at.
I was in attendance at the conference, and as Biggers talked about the work, I surveyed the audience. Many of the reactions to the piece were simply silent, coupled with scattered gasps of exasperation and sadness. The audience members, I imagine, were recalling instances of police brutality—unwanted, yet deeply entrenched memories. This is what I was thinking of, anyway. But Biggers generally glossed over Brown—whose body, lying in the street, has become one of the default images of Black Lives Mater. The artist instead spoke nebulously about “authority” and fell back on the image of Fat Albert, a comedic cartoon character. This was crass and irresponsible, and depoliticized the very premise of Laocoön.
Nonetheless, this practice of incorporating (popular) historic material into art is nothing new for Biggers, and has been used to better effect in his work, like Lotus (2011), a 7-foot-diameter glass disc with hand carved images. The shape is modeled after the lotus flower, a popular symbol in Buddhist culture representing purity, wholeness, peace, and transcendence. In the work, only visible at a close encounter, each petal in the flower has carved images of diagrams depicting slaves in slaves ships. Another version of the piece was later installed on the outer wall of the Eagle Academy for Young Men, a high school in the Bronx, New York, that aims to prioritize young men from the black and Latino communities in the borough. Students had an opportunity to experience the work and “acknowledge a past that shall never be forgotten,” as Biggers said during the conference.
The work’s pedagogical element places social engagement at its core, unlike Laocoön ’s surface-level confrontation with its audience. This is a crucial distinction, one that other successful political artists have explored. Simone Leigh has committed much of her work to promoting healing and self-care—two priorities that are extremely important in black America now considering the continuing brutality inflicted upon black bodies. Leigh has not exclusively tied her work to any contemporary political movement, but she reflects the experiences and needs of marginalized people, particularly black women. In 2014’s “Funk, God, Jazz & Medicine: Black Heritage in Brooklyn,” a public art project organized by The Weeksville Heritage Center and Creative Time, Leigh created the Free People’s Medical Clinic. The clinic, staged inside a 1914 Bed-Stuy brownstone mansion that was once home to a private obstetrical gynecological practice, Leigh recreated a free walk-in health clinic modeled after similar spaces opened by the Black Panther Party in the 1960s. Leigh, has been one of the few artists to respond to social injustices by focusing on black subjectivity—not just black bodies.
As I was writing this piece, I learned there had been more murders of unarmed black men by the police, one in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and yet another in St. Paul, Minnesota. These killings have become common and visible in recent years, but they remain, especially for a black person in this country, life-shattering, disabling, and immensely traumatic. I was reminded of an exchange I had with the artist and activist Dread Scott, in October 2015, when we appeared on a panel together. Scott has incited critical dialogue around American injustices ever since burning an American flag on the steps of the U.S. Capitol in 1989, an action that influenced policy, and led to the landmark Supreme Court decision in support of free speech, United States v. Eichman et al. Scott has also responded to the murder of Michael Brown, through his 2014 performance On the Possibility of Freedom in a Country Founded on Slavery and Genocide. Prior to the panel, Scott passed out flyers for a protest he was co-organizing with the Coalition to Stop Police Brutality, Repression and the Criminalization of a Generation. It was clear that his activism was a full-time commitment. I mentioned that his work in interrogating U.S governmental systems must be exhausting. He responded matter-of-factly, “Either you’re helping the movement or you’re not. There’s no in-between.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Judith Godwin, Epic, 1959, oil paint on canvas (diptych), 82 × 100 inches. LEE STALSWORTH/©JUDITH GODWIN/NATIONAL MUSEUM OF WOMEN IN THE ARTS, WASHINGTON, D.C,. GIFT OF CAROLINE ROSE HUNT
Judith Godwin, Epic, 1959, oil paint on canvas (diptych), 82 × 100 inches.
Asked if a male artist ever told her she painted like a man, Grace Hartigan replied, “Not twice.” “Women of Abstract Expressionism,” an unprecedented exhibition on view at the Denver Art Museum, celebrates Hartigan’s distinctive achievements and those of her colleagues, wrestling once again with inimical art-historical tar babies—sexual politics, canonicity, and generational amnesia.
The show features 51 paintings by 12 artists active in New York and San Francisco in the 1950s: Mary Abbott, Jay DeFeo, Perle Fine, Helen Frankenthaler, Sonia Gechtoff, Judith Godwin, Grace Hartigan, Elaine de Kooning, Lee Krasner, Joan Mitchell, Deborah Remington, and Ethel Schwabacher. “We researched more than 100 artists preparing for the show,” Denver Art Museum curator Gwen Chaznit explained. “Most of them were drawn briefly to direct gesture painting but moved on and became successful with other forms of expression. Nevertheless, we identified an amazing group of professionals engaged in avant-garde circles in the two major centers of Abstract Expressionist production in the 1950s.”
Joan Mitchell, Hudson River Day Line, 1955, oil paint on canvas, 79 × 83 inches.

For Chaznit, expressionistic gesture painting represents the “heart” of Abstract Expressionism, and numbers are on her side. By the end of the 1950s artists who regarded themselves as advancing the revolution initiated by Willem de Kooning’s brushy abstractions and figure paintings were at work in cities throughout the United States. With very few exceptions, the confident, exuberant, high-keyed painterly abstractions in the Denver exhibition not only conform to the ideals and visual pleasures of this widely practiced genre, but also, in the case of Krasner, Frankenthaler, Mitchell, and Hartigan, represent an apex of achievement for the movement’s second generation.
Essays in the exhibition’s comprehensive catalogue acknowledge the early career success of most of the New York painters in the exhibition; in San Francisco, artists such as Deborah Remington and Jay DeFeo became leaders within the city’s avant-garde. Since none of these artists came to be regarded as canonical Abstract Expressionists, their absence demands art history’s attention. Sexism obviously played a role, but so did a growing consensus among New York artists and critics that gesture painting had become an academic dead end by the end of the 1950s. (Who remembers Ernest Briggs or Edward Dugmore, prominent male gesture painters of the period?)
The invasion of so-called “neo-Dadaists”—Allan Kaprow, Robert Rauschenberg, and Jasper Johns—was already well under way by 1958, prefacing critiques of high modernism that would inspire obituaries for painting itself during the next decade. It could be argued that the women of Abstract Expressionism were slammed more heavily by the cultural shifts that Arthur Danto identified as “the end of art” than by misogyny. None of these speculations, however, will detract from the exhibition’s serious pleasures. It’s a revelatory time capsule, and the museum deserves a hurrah for opening it up.
The exhibition travels to the Mint Museum in Charlotte, North Carolina, in October and to the Palm Springs Art Museum in California in February 2017.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Senate Passes Act That The Arts Are Considered Core Subjects

Arts receive attention in new education plan.

On July 16, the United States Senate passed its bipartisan Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) reauthorization proposal, the Every Child Achieves Act (S. 1177), by a count of 81 to 17, according to a press release distributed by NAfME
This is a huge step for the students currently attending schools. This act allows any student from any school in the nation to learn the magic of Arts Education. Also with this step, the Senate has acknowledged that with the No Child Left Behind Act, the current school curriculum is narrowing its field and is actually dismissing Arts Education as a whole.

Saturday, June 11, 2016

Bronx Museum postpones show after Cuba halts loans to US
US President Barack Obama salutes a portrait of Abraham Lincoln in Havana’s Museum of the City during his visit to Cuba in March. © REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

The Bronx Museum of the Arts has postponed an exhibition of contemporary art from Cuba that was to be loaned by the National Museum of Fine Arts in Havana.

The decision follows Cuba’s delay in finalising arrangements to send its art to the US amid fears that loaned works of art could be seized to satisfy claims from Americans whose property in Cuba was confiscated after Fidel Castro seized power in 1959. 

The postponement sheds light on the many issues still to be resolved between the two countries, despite the official thaw declared by the Obama administration.

The Bronx exhibition, entitled Wild Noise, was to be the second part of an exchange with the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (MNBA) in Havana, and was scheduled to open this spring. The reciprocal initiative began a year ago with an exhibition in Havana of more than 90 works by 50 artists, on loan from the Bronx Museum’s permanent collection. After an exuberant publicity campaign, Wild Noise has disappeared without a murmur from the museum’s spring 2016 schedule.

Immunity request

The Bronx Museum insists the exhibition will still take place, saying in a statement: “There has been tremendous and rapid change in a wide range of activities with Cuba; not long ago no one would have imagined that we could have exhibited works from our collection there, as we successfully did in 2015… we are planning for the exhibition at the Bronx Museum in January 2017.” Its request for immunity from seizure for loans from Cuba is currently “in process”, an outside publicist for the museum adds.

But a January opening date may be optimistic, according to a lawyer who specialises in such disputes. He cites the Cuban embargo, still in place, which will not be lifted until property claims by Americans against Cuba are resolved. Loans from the MNBA, which are state property, would be at risk of seizure in the US to satisfy those claims. Under US law, cultural objects are as subject to seizure as any other Cuban government property.

“You can’t really have commerce until the embargo is lifted and until Cuba pays compensation to more than 6,000 American claimants,” says Mauricio Tamargo, a lawyer who chaired the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission under the Bush and Obama administrations. “This is the largest confiscation of American property in history. It’s something that can’t be ignored. As much as everybody would like to have normal relations with Cuba, this has to be resolved first.”

Claims total $7bn

The American claims amount to more than $7bn. Until a settlement is negotiated, Cuban museums are unlikely to loan art to the US without a guarantee of immunity from seizure—something the State Department regularly gives to US museums borrowing work from abroad. In the Bronx Museum case, though, even an executive order from the White House granting the museum immunity from seizure for art on loan from Havana is not an option, Tamargo says, since the US president lacks the authority (and probably the will) to override an embargo that has been affirmed by the US Congress. Nevertheless, the museum has responded to repeated enquiries with assurances that it expects the exhibition to take place.

As well as American claims on Cuba—known as certified claims because they have been recognised by the US government—there are nearly a dozen US legal judgments against Cuba that could delay full normalisation of relations, says Tamargo, who is now in private practice. The judgments include a 2009 order for Cuba to pay $27.5m in damages to the mother of a journalist jailed since 2003, and a 2011 ruling that the family of a Cuban-American citizen driven to suicide by Castro’s agents in 1959 should receive $2.8bn in compensation. Late last year, US and Cuban officials had their first meeting to discuss certified claims and judgments. Progress has been slow, according to insiders.

No easy solution

“This is an issue that is going to be very difficult and I don’t see a short-term solution to it,” says Ramón Cernuda, a dealer in Cuban art in Miami. “In the current climate, I really don’t see any important museums in the US wanting to convey an image of not caring for or considering valid claims to ownership of art or other claims against the Cuban government. It’s not just the uphill battle of getting the immunity, but the backlash that could come with that.”

Cuban reluctance to send government property to the US is understandable, says the American collector Howard Farber, who has purchased art in Cuba and brought it to the US, thanks to a special status that removes art acquired privately from the current US embargo. “It’s happening too fast,” he says. “You’re dealing with 55 years of distrust between two countries. They’re not going to gamble with their Mona Lisas—for a museum show?” 

Friday, March 11, 2016

Saturday, February 20, 2016

DuSable appoints new chief curator

Leslie Guy is the new chief curator at The DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl.
Leslie Guy is the new chief curator at The DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl.
Staff Writer
The DuSable Museum of African American History, 740 E. 56th Pl., appointed Leslie Guy as its new chief curator.
Guy, who began working at DuSable Jan. 15, is the curator of the museum’s latest exhibit “The DuSable Masterworks Collection – Series 1: Paintings.” The exhibit opens Feb. 9 in the Masterworks Gallery.
“I’m delighted to welcome Leslie to DuSable and to Chicago,” DuSable Museum President and CEO Perri Irmer said. “Leslie’s dynamic and innovative approach to the arts is perfectly aligned with my forward-looking and collaborative vision for DuSable. I am so delighted that she is part of our leadership team.”
Prior to her position at DuSable, Guy served as the director of curatorial services for the African American Museum of Philadelphia. Her curated shows included “Legendary,” a photographic exhibit celebrating the ball culture of African American, Latino, gay and transgender communities as well as “Badass Art Man,” a collection of artwork by Danny Simmons, the brother of Russell Simmons and one of the most recognized collectors of African American art in the country.
In 1995, Guy became the first African American woman in the United States to earn a master’s in science degree in art conservation. The University of Delaware graduate said the politics behind preservation efforts drew her to the degree.
“I was troubled by the lack of African American representation in collections and the lack of resources dedicated to the preservation of African American artifacts,” Guys said.
Guy, who has described her style of curating as hyperlocal, but global in scope and viewpoint, said “Chicago is a really dynamic city with a strong African American tradition and really strong history, especially when it comes to art.”
Guy said, “My vision for DuSable is to really tell the stories that highlight the city’s rich history and the ties between contemporary stories such as Black Lives Matter.
She said the Black Lives Matter movement is an example of present day harkening back in time.
“The devaluation of black lives has been consistent throughout our history,” Guy said. “Today, as in the past, we view this conversation through an artistic as well as a historic lens. The story might look different but it’s the same.”

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

The Buzz......

Artist makes art history with the Artist Creations Cookbook

Artist makes art history with the Artist Creations Cookbook
“The Artist Creations Cookbook projects are the collaborative efforts of renowned contemporary artists with commentary support from a few politicians and art business owners. Our collective goal is to celebrate, uplift and support the visual arts communities wherever they may be. My personal mission is to ensure art is an essential part of every child's life, especially those who live in underserved communities.”  -- Arthur L. Dawson
Orlando, FL -- Arthur L. Dawson is a self-taught artist who grew up just south of Tallahassee in Wakulla, Florida. He developed an interest in art at the age of seven, when he created a comic book with himself as the superhero vanquishing evildoers. As an adult, he became well known in law enforcement for his highly praised reconstructive and aging techniques for identifying missing persons and deceased individuals of unknown identity. Later, because of the influence of Lois Mailou Jones, Arthur decided to move away from forensic art and devote his talents full-time to the fine art he always longed to do. In 1991, Arthur founded Ethnic Visions, an art publishing distribution company, to sell and promote his artworks. His latest projects include the Youth Art Program created in 2006 and Contemporary Masters, Inc., created in 2012.
The Artist Creations Cookbook Collector’s Edition vol. I is an 86-page hardcover, perfect bound, art and cookbook with full color pages throughout and dust jacket. It features beautiful art and tasty recipes of 27 nationally renowned contemporary artists from the U.S., Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Haiti, and Jamaica! Retail price is $60.00.
Arthur’s Artist Creations Cookbook is truly a unique art project. There are art picture books, books about artists, and there are cookbooks, but there has never been a book containing all three. In addition to all the beautiful food related art and yummy recipes, you will also find an artist Remarque page. For an additional fee, you can get a removable (8 x 10) original work of art.
Projects like the Artist Creations Cookbook and its benefactor, Youth Art Program (YAP) are shining examples of humble efforts to engage, educate, inspire, and motivate African American youth and adults about the visual arts. The Artist Creations Cookbook presents an epic opportunity to showcase cultural cuisine and the artwork of national and internationally renowned artist to art and food lovers across the country and around the world.
        What is the “Artist Creations Cookbook”?
It’s history……….The first book to ever feature recipes with fine art
It’s an 86 page artist reference book……….Connect with the 48 renowned artists
It’s an art book……….View the masterful works of art
It’s a cookbook……….Try some of the artist yummy recipes
It’s a fine art collectible……….Get a Remarque = Artist drawing/painting inside the book (detachable)
It’s a limited edition……….The Artist Creations Cookbook Collection Collector’s Edition
It’s entertainment………..Listen to mellow tunes by national recording artists on the cookbook (Cooking Companion) music CD  
It’s a keepsake……….Add your own favorite Family recipes to the blank pages provided and pass it down for generations to come.
Volume I of the Artist Creations Cookbook Collector’s Edition (art and the favorite recipes of artist) was released 2014. Volume II, the (art and healthy recipes of artist) with special guest celebrity chef Marvin Woods from (Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” is set for release March 2016.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The Obama's Art

Art News• Anika D.
Barack Obama white house art collection

Barack Obama white house art collection
Well, we all know that abstract art has made a big comeback on the art market, but how many of you know that abstractionism is also the favorite style of the presidential couple Barack and Michelle Obama? Unlike his forbearers, Barack Obama seems to be tired of looking at all those boring landscapes and stuffy portraits and that is why he decided to bring some excitement into the White House collection. Ever since he entered the office, Obama has been slowly adding abstract pieces to the residence, and although some traditionalists may be against his choice, we have to admit that there is nothing more American than the art of modernism or abstract expressionism. Even CIA would approve.

Barack Obama white house art collection
Barack Obama white house art collection
Alma Thomas, Resurrection and Early Bloomer by Robert Rauschenberg at the White House Family Dining Room. Photo via

Revamping the White House Walls
Even before Obamas moved to Washington their art interest was focused on contemporary art. One of their first dates was at the Art Institute of Chicago, how romantic is that? Nevertheless, the Obama couple love story isn’t on our daily schedule and we need to focus on their art collection. Before Obamas moved to the White House, the collection comprised of more traditional American paintings, but the presidential couple decided to bridge the gap between tradition and modernity, introducing some modern American pieces, but keeping the sense of formality. Over the years, Obamas have borrowed dozens of works from various Washington museums and galleries including pieces made by Robert Rauschenberg, Mark Rothko, and Jasper Jones among others.

Barack Obama white house art collection
Barack Obama white house art collection
Was it a good choice to place the Edward Ruscha’s piece about indecisiveness in the White House? I Think I’ll …, detail. Photo via

Obama Art Collection: A Special Focus on African-American Art
When it comes to the choice of the artworks Obamas wanted to display at the White House, the decision was motivated by their goal to diversify the collection, introducing artists from various backgrounds. The new collection is extended to include artworks created by African-American, Asian, Hispanic and female artists, focusing on the cultural diversity of the US art and history. Along with the modern masters, the collection is now richer for the works of African-American painter Alma Thomas and contemporary artist Glenn Ligon who has personally praised Obama’s decision to use art as a way of opening a dialogue between the races.

Barack Obama white house art collection
 Barack Obama white house art collection
Glenn Ligon, one of Obama’s favorite contemporary artists. Photo via

Goodbye Dwight D. Eisenhower
Although White House curator’s office is responsible for the selection of the pieces which will be on display at public and private spaces of the building, the president and his family have the full authority when it comes to the final choice. How else would George W. Bush be allowed to display the awful racing cowboy painting in the Oval Office? Fortunately, the art taste of George W. Bush has left the building, along with his political idols. One of the first things Obama did when he became president is to replace the portrait of Dwight D. Eisenhower, one of Bush’s favorites, with the portrait of his own role model – president Harry S. Truman. The revamping of the White House continues, and what will the next president bring to the residence is to be seen next year. One thing is certain, however. If Trump is to be the next president, all those cultural diversity efforts of the Obama couple will definitely vanish from the collection.