Commentary and Update of Gallery and Museum Statistics, 1986–1997
Catherine Powell, assistant counsel for the Black Women’s Employment Project of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund (LDF), explains that most race cases are argued with indirect evidence. “It usually becomes one person’s word against another’s . . . and often white Americans are willing to believe that discrimination doesn’t exist anymore.” Steve Ralston, also with the LDF, says, “If it comes down to a swearing contest, often you don’t have direct evidence.” He adds, “Often the judges won’t believe black witnesses.”1
A decade after my first statistical review of New York City galleries and museums relative to artists of color, National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) funding for visual artists completely collapsed. Diminished funding had also limited the number of grants from New York State Council for the Arts (NYSCA).2 With reduced public funding, the museums have become less accountable to the public, tying themselves more closely to the commercial and corporate sectors inside and outside of the arts industry.
If one asks if exhibition opportunities have improved over the last decade for artists of color, various opinions emerge. One person may feel that things have vastly improved and are wonderful; another would take the position that while there are more shows, they are segregated and white art dealers are still reluctant to represent artists of color or they represent only a token few with specific types of work. Opinions seem to fall along the color line, although there are exceptions, with whites saying that things are much better and people of color saying that things have changed, but not greatly. (See cross section of opinions at beginning of chapter.)
Performance artist Karen Finley in a radio interview, reported in The New York Times, noted that as artists of color, women, and gay artists “were getting their voice,” Congress and “white male fundamentalists,” feeling threatened, “withdrew support,” creating a “commercial emphasis.”3 I agree with Finley and feel that the change over the last decade reflects narrower possibilities for all artists, including artists of color, because of dwindling funds. However, white artists have more options.4 Although over the past 10 years there have been group exhibitions focusing on African-American, Asian-American, Latino, and Native American art across the United States, their existence only partially addresses the issues. A number of artists no longer wish to participate in “segregated theme shows” and do not wish to be used as isolated tokens in other shows.
A decade later, there are not as many galleries that are 100% white. Several have closed, and a few have added one or two artists of color. However, the galleries that represent the apex of the commercial system are the ones most likely to be 100% white.5 The artists selected for one-person shows in the major museums are the artists most likely to be represented by these galleries. The museums are, as they were 10 years ago, relying on the dealers to select artists for them, strangely reticent about independent action outside of the commercial system. (Curators of color are more likely to seek artists outside of the gallery system.) University galleries are the exception. Directors are more inclined to look beyond the gallery scene for artists and to seek a diverse, albeit limited, exhibition schedule because of university cutbacks. Dealers do not favor university venues for their artists because the financial rewards are few. In other words, business drives what is documented as art history—more so now without the checks and balances of watchdog advocacy groups working for change within the funding agencies. The movie industry displays its movies in for-profit theaters and spends millions to advertise, whereas the visual-art industry shows its wares in (in-part) public-funded, tax-exempt, not-for-profit institutions that provide free catalogues and advertising for the dealer. Museums do not seem to mind this kind of relationship. Their trustees and acquisitions committees, made up of predominantly white collectors who sometimes pay annual fees, and always make substantial contributions, can also see the value of their private holdings increase when an artist whose work they own is shown in or collected by a museum.
A less pessimistic outlook would be that over the last decade positive changes include an increase in the publishing of catalogues and books concerning artists of color. However, not many texts concerning American art in general include a diverse array of artists of color.
Since there has been a paucity of articles on the work of artists of color in the New York-based art magazines, Third Text, edited by Rasheed Araeen, has been publishing articles on artists of color, including Lorna Simpson, Mona Hatoum, Theresa Hak Kyung Cha, Jimmie Durham, Kay WalkingStick, and Frank Bowling. Articles in this magazine are written by artists, critics, art historians, and academics from Nigeria, Mexico, India, Cuba, Hong Kong, Guyana, Puerto Rico, Brazil, Nicaragua, Australia, the United States, and Europe. They include Luis Camnitzer, Robin Chandler, Feroza Jussawalla, Tariq Modood, Hou Hanru, Gayatri C. Spivak, Olu Oguibe, Denis Ekpo, Guillermo Gómez-Peña, Quentin Lee, Okwui Enwezor, Javier Sanjinés C., Ali Mazrui, and Edward Said. Third Text is funded by the Arts Council of England.6
One of the few long-running journals (founded in 1972) is Samella Lewis’s International Review of African American Art, with its most recent issue on African-American abstraction.7 In spite of diminished funding, artist and filmmaker Camille Billops and her husband James Hatch of the Hatch-Billops Archive also continue to publish transcripts from their Artist and Influence interview series.8 Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art9 edited by Okwui Enwezor (also artistic director of the 1997 Johannesburg Biennale), began publishing in collaboration with the African Studies and Research Center, Cornell University. And finally, Asian Art News,10 published in Hong Kong, and Art Asia Pacific11 from Malaysia.
Positive changes also include painter Joan Mitchell’s foundation, established after her death in an attempt to provide more funding and support for diversity. In 1987, actor Bill Cosby began funding three scholarships per year for African-American art students to attend the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture’s summer program in Maine.12 In 1993, three scholarships were established for Native American artists by the Educational Foundation of America. In the same year additional scholarships for art students of Asian, Pacific, Latino, South American, or Caribbean heritages were established by the Payson Governors Fund. In 1996 Russell Simmons, CEO of Def Jam Records, established the Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, opening the Rush Gallery in New York City to exhibit primarily African-American artists.13
Additional improvements include more dealers of color and more New York galleries focusing on the art of artists of color, including Carla Stellweg Gallery, showing primarily contemporary Latino artists; Sigma Gallery, contemporary Asian artists; and June Kelly, Bill Hodges, and Skoto Aghahowa’s galleries. Across the country there is George N’Namdi in Birmingham, and Dell Pryor Gallery, Sherry Washington Gallery, and Metropolitan Center for the Creative Arts and Arts Extended Gallery, all in Detroit, Michigan; Darice Wright, and Satori Fine Arts Gallery in Chicago; Alitash Kebede and Diara Basley in Los Angeles; M. Eric Hanks in Santa Monica; Porter Troupe Gallery in San Diego; and the Bomani Gallery in San Francisco. (A number of the African-American and Asian dealers show work by artists from other cultures as well as work by European and American artists.) There is, however, only one African-American member of the Art Dealers Association of America (ADAA). One cannot “join” without nomination and meeting its criteria, which limits outsiders and creates a form of advantage for its members. Are the most recent white dealerships being invited? Gagosian Gallery, for example, is 100% white and influential, but is not a member. In a conversation with the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, one of its attorneys referred to the 100% white dealerships (with 100% white staffs) and the way the art world is run in general as a “cartel.” He suggested that I speak with someone in the Attorney General’s office concerning the situation.
There are a few more curators of color, including Heraldo Mosquera, the New Museum; Alejandro Anreus, Jersey City Museum; Sharon Patton, University of Michigan Museum, Philip Morris Branch;14 Horace Brockington, IRADAC (The Institute for Research on the African Diaspora in the Americas and the Caribbean) at City University of New York; Camille Brewer, Detroit Institute of the Arts; Dierdre Beebe, the Wadsworth Atheneum, Hartford, CT; and A.M. Weaver, the Painted Bride Arts Center, Philadelphia. Lowery Sims has been promoted to full curator at the Metropolitan Museum and Kellie Jones is an adjunct curator at The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis. Kristen Buick is lecturer in the education department at the Art Institute of Chicago. Terrie Rouse is director of the Children’s Museum in Portland, Maine; Grace Stanislaus, the Museum of African Art, New York City; and Dr. Rozalind Walker, the African Museum, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC. In 1996 Dr. Leslie King Hammond became the first African-American director of the College Art Association, and Imna Arroyo the president of the Women’s Caucus for Art; Eugenie Tsai at the Whitney Museum at Champion in Connecticut; Karen Fujimoto at the Oakland Museum; and Emily Sano is at the Brundage Museum in San Francisco. There is progress but the numbers are still far too small.
Alternative venues have continued to provide a mixture of integrated group and one-person shows focusing on various cultural heritages. The Native American Community House Gallery, Kenkeleba House, Exit Art, The Asian-American Arts Center, Alternative Museum, The New Museum, Thread Waxing Space, White Columns, and Art in General have survived deflated funding, sometimes working in collaboration with one another and with El Museo del Barrio, Studio Museum in Harlem, and Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (closed).15 Without the Native American Community House Gallery we would see little of the work by Native American artists since they have had fewer exhibition opportunities than any other group of artists.
The glass seems half empty when one considers that alternative galleries must operate within a fragile financial margin. But the glass seems half full when one considers the alternatives as fertile training grounds for future curators and arts administrators, as well as excellent places for art students to learn about a diverse arts community by serving as interns.
Although more artists of color appear to be showing in the commercial sector,16 sinister aspects have become apparent. Trends have emerged that encourage hyperactive, exotic, or demeaning images of sexuality (especially in combination with race) and support African-American artists who use racially stereotypical images that demean or distort their own people. This can be seen in the work of Ellen Gallagher, Kara Walker,17 Robert Colescott,18 Michael Ray Charles, and to some extent, Gary Simmons. The surge of work focusing on racial stereotypes became more visible after the NEA cut funding to artists and cleared the way for commercial pressure to cater (or pander) to European tastes and a European market. In the past, Europeans and Americans created and maintained racial stereotypes as a form of propaganda against a group or groups of people. Robin M. Chandler in “Xenophobes, Visual Terrorism, and the African Subject”19 explores racial stereotypes, referring to the practice as a form of market-driven racism.
Visual terrorism is the production and use of visual images to express contempt for, to disempower and to terrorize members of a particular culture group, by another group. What may appear as innocuous playtime in white representations of blackness and Africanness, is so often interpreted by people of colour as an attack on identity.20
Dominated by white patrons, the subject matter of popularly accepted signs or icons included images which were acceptable to those who had the money to collect.21
In other words, artists are flattered, encouraged, and rewarded for having mercenary instincts, selling out to sell out.
Over the past 10 years, with the blessings of Congress, market-driven forces have intertwined more tightly with the ideology of the white patron, encouraging non-white artists to utilize forms of self and community immolation, regardless of the consequences, in order to attract the attention of white dealers. With the sources of funding drying up and a tax code that requires artists to sell in order to be considered professional, artists of color not willing to sell out are faced with not only limited opportunities in the galleries, but also segregated group shows, and isolation as tokens. Banding together by establishing artists’ groups for support has helped solve some of the dilemmas, soothing some of the anxiety brought on by isolation and marginalization. In 1959 the National Conference of Artists, an African-American artists’ organization, formed in Atlanta and today has approximately 10 regional chapters as well as a gallery; Godzilla, an Asian-American artists’ group, formed in 1990; and an African-American women’s artists’ group (EBWA) formed in New York in 1996. Each group has focused on documenting its activities as artists, expanding exhibition possibilities, and reaching out to the arts and general community. Exhibition opportunities have also come from abroad, including invitations for Asian-American, Latino, Native American and African-American artists to participate in the Havana Biennale in 1992, 1994, and 1996.
The community of art critics,22 being predominantly white, has greeted the changes with mixed emotions and at times undiscerning critiques, generalization, and exaggerations because of limited or lopsided knowledge, as in the following:
[T]he endless parade of pointless, pretentious, political activist exhibitions at the New Museum (purporting to educate and raise social consciousness but most often leaving the viewer more confused than informed); … the tidal waves of weak ethnic-based exhibitions organized under the banner of equality and multiculturalism, flooding art museums and galleries from Maine to California.23
Gallery Statistics (through 1996):
In order to compare the statistics formulated 10 years ago, I calculated the recent statistics using the 1996–97 Art in America annual, where artists’ names were provided by each gallery for listing—as in the 1986–1987 annual, my previous source. Note: percentages represent the number of white artists represented by the gallery. All galleries listed are located in New York City.
The following 36 galleries showed only white artists in 1986–1987. In 1996–1997, 13 are still representing only white artists: Blum Helman (Joseph Helman), Diane Brown, Leo Castelli, Andre Emmerich, Fishbach, Gimpel and Weitzenhoffer, Marian Goodman, Jay Gorney, M. Knoedler and Co., Curt Marcus, Pace/MacGill/Wildenstein, Edward Thorp, and Althea Viafore. 15 galleries that listed artists in 1986–1987 either do not have 1996–1997 lists, or have since closed: Massimo Audiello, Josh Baer, Baskerville-Watson, Cable, Cash/Newhouse, Xavier Fourcade, Graham Modern, Germans Van Eck, and Barbara Toll all closed; John Gibson, Michael Klein, and Anina Nosei all had no list; Lorence-Monk, International with Monument, and Marcuse Pfeifer were not listed or have closed. Only 8 of the galleries’ percentages of white artists represented have dropped between 1986 and 1996 (the number that precedes each gallery is the 1996–1997 percentage of white artists represented): 89%—Brooke Alexander/Brooke Alexander Editions, 82%—Mary Boone, 94%—Paula Cooper, 90&—Gracie Mansion (Gracie Mansion/Fred Dorfman Projects), 85%—Metro Pictures, 81%—Max Protetch, 86%—PPOW, 97%—Stux.
Galleries which had shown a small percentage of artists of color in 1986–1987 have changed as follows: 11 of the galleries have increased the percentage of white artists they represent (the first percentage listed is from 1986–1987, the second is from 1996–1997): Charles Cowles—95% to 96%, Ronald Feldman—94% to 97.5%, Sperone Westwater—94% to 97%, John Weber—94% to 97%, Louis Meisel—93% to 93%, Holly Solomon—93% to 95%, Barbara Gladstone—92% to 94%, David McKee—91% to 92%, Anita Shapolsky—91% to 100%, Sidney Janis—84% to 96%, and Nancy Hoffman—75% to 91%. The following 6 galleries (listed with their 1986-1987 percentages) currently have not listed their artists or have since closed: Pace Wildenstein—92%, OK Harris—89%, and Pat Hearn—75% all with no list; Rosa Esman—86% and Semaphore—69% both closed; and Sharpe—80% (no list or closed). The next 8 galleries have decreased in percentage of white artists represented since 1986–1987 (the first percentage listed is from 1986–1987, the second is from 1996–1997): Allan Frumkin (George Adams)—94% to 93%, Phyllis Kind—92% to 83%, M-13—92% to 83%, Salander O’Reilly)—92% to 91%, Postmasters—91% to 83%, Maeght-LeLong (Galerie LeLong)—89% to 67%, Bernice Steinbaum (Steinbaum Kraus)—84% to 53%, and Marlborough—82% to 79%.
The following 21 New York City galleries, which were not listed in the original report, are listed here with their 1996–1997 percentages of white artists represented: 100%—Tibor de Nagy, Gagosian, Matthew Marks, and Pace Prints, 96%—Sonnabend, 95%—Hirschl and Adler Modern, 94%—Robert Miller, 92%—Jack Shainman, 92%—Monique Knowlton, 86%—Sean Kelly; 83%—D.C. Moore and Jack Tilton; 78%—Tony Shafrazi, 76%—CDS, 72%—Michael Rosenfeld, 69%—ACA, 46.43%—June Kelly, 9%—Sigma, 8%—Carla Stellwig, 6%—Bill Hodges, and 0%—Skoto.
Of the galleries surveyed, 36 were 100% white in 1986–1987; 13 of these galleries have closed and 4 new ones were added to the recent list; 18 of these galleries were 100% white in 1996–97.
When I requested information concerning museum exhibition programs in 1986, each museum—the Brooklyn Museum, the Guggenheim Museum, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art, the Whitney Museum, and Snug Harbor Cultural Center/Newhouse Center for Contemporary Art—provided more or less complete exhibition schedules for 1980–86. The same museums were contacted concerning their 1986–96 exhibition schedules. Only three museums responded to the request: the Brooklyn Museum, the Metropolitan Museum, and Snug Harbor.
The Brooklyn Museum provided a list of exhibitions, which had a catalogue or published checklist. The people at the museum suggested we come to the museum ourselves to ferret out the rest. Out of 134 exhibitions listed for 1986—96, there were 21 exhibitions concerned with art by artists of color, or non-European cultures (including any mixed contemporary exhibitions—with one or more artists of color), or 16% of the list.
The yearly breakdown of shows for the Metropolitan Museum and its percentage of exhibitions of art by only white artists are as follows: 1986—74%, 1987—81%, 1988—76%, 1989—68%, 1990—70%, 1991—75%, 1992—68%, and in 1993—85% (until May 31).
Out of 60 one-person exhibitions, two were by men of color (Chinese and Puerto Rican—not contemporary) and four were of work by white women. Out of 305 exhibitions, 73 were devoted to non-European cultures and artists. 75% of the program was European. 36 of the exhibitions were devoted to Asian art, eight to African art, 16 to Middle/Near-Eastern art and antiquities, six to Latin-American art, one to Native American art, four to contemporary art (mixed including one or more artists of color), and two of the exhibitions were devoted to Indigenous People/New Guinea. 85% of the traveling exhibitions were devoted to European or European-American Art.
NEWHOUSE CENTER FOR CONTEMPORARY ART/SNUG HARBOR
Out of 59 exhibitions from 1989–2000, there were/will be 20 exhibitions concerned with the art of artists of color, non-European cultures, or mixed contemporary (including one or more artists of color). This means that 34% of the scheduled exhibitions will be of art by artists of color and non-Europeans.
The Guggenheim Museum did not respond.
MUSEUM OF MODERN ART
The Museum of Modern Art did not respond.
WHITNEY MUSEUM OF AMERICAN ART
Although the Whitney Museum did not respond, according to a Guerrilla Girls poster, Whitney Annuals were 89.7% white in 1991, 65.9% white in 1993, 83.2% white in 1995.
I selected a December 1986 and a December 1996 Gallery Guide, counted the numbers of entries and noted when artists of color were mentioned. In 1986, 560 galleries, museums, and alternative spaces in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Rhode Island were listed. Artists of color appeared in 39 listings, mostly in lesser-known galleries that have since closed, such as Morningstar or Artarena galleries. 93% of the listings did not include artists of color.
In 1996, out of 592 listings for galleries, museums, and alternative spaces in New York, New Jersey, and Rhode Island, 84 mention the names of artists of color: 39%—Latino, 37%—Asian, 20%—African-American, 3%—Native American, 1%—Near/Middle-Eastern/Antiquities. The names were mentioned in a mixture of known and alternative galleries, such as: June Kelly, Sean Kelly, the Alternative Museum, Studio Museum in Harlem, and the New Museum; and less-known galleries, such as O’Hara, Kruger, and Westwood. 86% of the listings did not include artists of color.
Survey of NEA Support:
As of 1996, the National Endowment for the Arts has been mandated by Congress not to fund individual visual artists except through the museum program which supports one-person exhibitions. The total amount granted to museums for one-person exhibitions in all categories was $672,000.
Out of 41 one-person exhibitions supported by the museum program in 1996, 14 were by artists of color while the remaining 27 were by white artists. Four European-American women were funded. Two women of color were funded—half the number. Therefore, 34% of the one-person exhibitions funded were by people of color. However, the average grant for one-person exhibitions by artists of color was $9,107.14 while the average grant for one-person exhibitions by white artists was $20,166.67.
White artists were given $544,500 for one-person exhibitions; $127,500 was provided for exhibitions by artists of color. In New York City, two one-person exhibitions by artists of color were funded (Antonio Matorelli—$12,000, and Rimer Cordillo—$12,500). Six one-person exhibitions by white artists were funded (including Jack Smith—$55,000, Jasper Johns—$20,000, Chaim Soutine—$20,000, Victor Hugo—$8,000, Tiepolo—$25,000, and Weegee—$10,000).
Nationally, seven one-person exhibitions by African-American artists were funded including Jacob Lawrence ($5,000), Betye Saar ($15,000), Maya Lin ($15,000), and Dawoud Bey ($5,000); four by Latino artists; three by Asian-Americans including Mel Chin ($10,000). No Native American artists were funded.
One-person exhibitions by women received a little over 14% of the grants and 18% of the funds and included Sara Charlesworth ($30,000), Lavinia Fontana ($25,000), and Petah Coyne ($10,000).
Under the old NEA guidelines, artists were funded directly for producing art, the creation of work was the primary focus. Under the new guidelines, grants are given to museums for one-person exhibitions. The result is that shows go to artists who are more likely to be approved by the art-world establishment and to have lucrative gallery connections. Younger artists, artists of color, women artists, and lesser-known artists have less of a chance, and if funded, receive less money than well-connected individuals. The NEA has therefore become a business partner to the gallery system. Linking directly with business interests, the NEA is courting corporate cash through its new Office of Enterprise Development, for example, receiving, according to its 1996 booklet A New Look, $450,000 from H.J. Heinz Co.
Public Opinion on the Visual Arts
What does the general public think about visual art? The Alternative Museum made available to the public a study entitled “American Public Attitudes Towards the Visual Arts, February 1994.” It was prepared by Marttila and Kiley, Inc., NY, working with artists Komar and Melamid, for the Nation Institute, New York.24 The survey revealed that the most favorable impression was made by Jackson Pollock’s work. 64% preferred traditional art, 49% American art, 30% European art, 8% African art, and 6% Asian art. 60% preferred realistic art. 31% of African Americans and 30% of Latinos believed art should have a “higher goal,” while only 17% of the whites felt this way.
In an attempt to be optimistic, I look forward to the next decade and the new millennium bringing more positive changes.
Valerie Burgher, “Race Discrimination in the Aftermath of the Texaco Settlement: The Burden of Proof,” Village Voice, Dec. 3, 1996, p. 26.Back to text
According to its funding report, NYSCA’s funding for museum programs in 1990–91 was $6,357,200 with 332 museums funded, in 1993–94 funding for museums dropped to $3,330,500 with 188 museums funded, in 1990–91 the Museum of Modern Art received $618,000 from NYSCA; its 1993–94 funding dropped to $210,000.Back to text
Karen Finley, “The Art of Offending,” Op-Ed, The New York Times, Nov. 14, 1996, p. A–23.Back to text
During a Guerilla Girls panel at Cooper Union in the late 1980s, a member of the audience asked the panelists including New York City art dealers, Holly Solomon and Ronald Feldman, if a black artist living in Harlem wanted to have a gallery exhibition, could he or she come downtown and approach the galleries? One of the dealers responded to the question by saying that this artist would have a hard time and would be better off going to the alternatives, even though this dealer had not seen the artist’s work.Back to text
For example, Leo Castelli Gallery is 100% white, representing Chryssa, Hannae Darbovin, Laura Grisi, Jasper Johns, Ellsworth Kelly, Jospeh Kosuth, Roy Lichtenstein, Robert Morris, Bruce Nauman, James Rosenquist, Ed Ruscha, Richard Serra, Keith Sonnier, Frank Stella, and Lawrence Weiner.Back to text
Third Text, Box 3509, London NW6 3PQ.Back to text
The International Review of African American Art, first published in 1972, was transferred to the Hampton University Museum in Virginia in 1992, one of the few long-running journals on African-American art, with 52 issues published since 1972 (Hampton VA 23668).Back to text
Artist and Influence, Hatch-Billops Collection, 491 Broadway, New York, NY 10012. They have produced 15 issues on the lives and work of many generations of artist of color since 1981. In 1995 they convened a conference in New York on racism as part of their film project KKK: Boutique Ain’t Just Rednecks.Back to text
Nka: Journal of Contemporary African Art, 247 Carlton Ave., Brooklyn, NY 11205.Back to text
Asian Art News, USPS 010-515, 32a Glenealy Mansions, 7 Glenealy, Central, Hong Kong.Back to text
Art Asia Pacific, World Publications Distributors, Box 13401, 50808, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.Back to text
Bill Cosby also funded the building of a museum and conference center at Spelman College in Atlanta. The museum was the originating institution for the traveling exhibition Bearing Witness: The Work of African American Women Artists”.Back to text
Rush Gallery, 526 W. 26th St., #311, New York, NY 10011. Derrick Adams, a painter, is the director.Back to text
Thelma Golden curated the Black Male show in 1994. Reactions to the exhibition were strong and mixed, yet there were lines around the block of people trying to see the exhibition, including many people of color who had in the past not felt welcome in the museum.Back to text
Kenkeleba House and Asian-American Arts Center co-curated the Ancestors exhibition in 1995. The Studio Museum in Harlem, the New Museum, and the Museum of Contemporary Hispanic Art (closed) co-curated The Decade Show in 1990.Back to text
The few New York City white dealers who will exhibit African-American artists seem to prefer those not living in the city. They also seem to prefer artists whose work displays the black body. (There are exceptions, such as the work of Martin Puryear, David Hammons, and Leonardo Drew, and to some extent Glenn Ligon.) The white dealers seem uninterested in the work of formalists.Back to text
Kara Walker, after a brief but intense exposure in the New York and international art world, ranging from Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York to the Museum of Modern Art, Paris, has been so completely embraced by white patrons and the public that she has had interviews or articles in leading art periodicals: Flash Art (November/December, 1996), ARTnews (January 1997), and the cover of Frieze (October, 1996, London) and a one-person exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in San Francisco (1997). Have the excellent artist of color in the Bay Area been given this type of exposure and courted in the same way? I doubt it. According to Ellis Cose in Color-BlindBack to text
(HarperCollins, 1997, p. 41) negative stereotypes cause low self-esteem and low test scores in the target group. See Marlon Rigg’s film Ethnic Notations concerning the use of ethnic stereotypes and the damage they cause. (One friend of mine noted that he doubted the response would be the same if Jewish people, not African Americans, were presented as stereotypes interacting with Nazis. Would this also be called “bawdy” and “entertaining”?) Kara Walker uses the silhouette cut-out image in her installations. According to Steven Loring Jones in “A Keen Sense of the Artistic: African American Material Culture in 19th Century Philadelphoa,” in the International Review of African-American Art (Volume 12, No. 2, 1995, pp. 5–6), African-American Moses Williams, enslaved by the white Philadelphia painter Charles Wilson Peale, cut silhouettes becoming “an immediate hit. . . . Williams cute 8,880 profiles and was so successful as to make his manumission possible in 1803. He eventually bought a two-story brick house and married Maria, the Peale’s white cook, who had refused to eat at the same table with him when he was in bondage.”
Robert Colescott represented the United States at the 1997 Venice Biennale, he has been criticized by African-American communities for his used of negative stereotyped images of African Americans in works collected primarily by whites.Back to text
Robin M. Chandler, “Xenophobes, Visual Terrorism, and the African Subject,” Third Text (London), Summer 1996, p. 15. One of my students showed me children’s books printed in Germany prior to the holocaust that portrayed people of color and Jewish people in a negative, grotesque, stereotypical manner, clearly setting the stage for hatred and disrespect. If a wider range of work by African-American artist could be seen in the same venues that welcome racial stereotypes, Colescott would be one of the many voices instead of one of the very few voices.Back to text
Ibid., p. 17.Back to text
Ibid., p. 23.Back to text
As more artists of color exhibit, positive and negative reviews of their work appear in The New York Times. See: Grace Glueck’s, “In Asia, A War of Past and Present” and “The Evidence of Things Not Seen: Drawings by Glenn Ligon,” Oct. 18, 1996, p. C–29 and Grace Glueck’s, “National Black Fine Arts Show,” Jan. 31, 1997, p. C–28. A rather cynical article by Roberta Smith, May 26, 1996, “The Gallery Doors Open” stated how wonderful it was that so much has changed. Her focus seemed to be mainly on well-connected white women. Her inclusion of everyone else “taken along for the ride” seemed gratuitous and a little patronizing. However, she did admit that black women artist were the least accepted in the art-establishment community. The article included black women artists use racial stereotypes and who have been picked up by the galleries (Gallagher and Walker).Back to text
Elaine King, “The Post Modern Avant-Garde Enigma: Who and What is Killing Art?” Art Criticism, Vol. II, No. 2, 1996, p. 80.Back to text
The control group, selected from a random sampling of phone numbers, including unlisted numbers, was 53 percent female, 47 percent male, and 78 percent white.Back to text