Hampton Art Lovers Set to Make A Cultural Impact During Art Basel and Miami Art Week

“Elizabeth Catlett & The Hampton Arts Tradition” & “Ernie Barnes: Eyes Closed” on Display December 5-9, 2018 in Historic Overtown, Miami

MIAMI – Hampton Art Lovers present “Elizabeth Catlett & The Hampton Arts Tradition” and “Ernie Barnes: Eyes Closed” December 5-9, 2018 in Historic Overtown in Miami.

The “Elizabeth Catlett & The Hampton Arts” exhibition will take place at the Ward Rooming House, at 249 NW 9th St, Miami, FL 33136. and the “Ernie Barnes: Eyes Closed” exhibition will take place at the Overtown Performing Arts Center, at 1074 NW 3rd Ave, Miami, FL 33136. Both will run from December 5-9, 2018 during Art Basel and Miami Art Week.

Hampton Art Lovers are passionate supporters of Hampton University’s long-standing commitment to fine African-American art.

The group will join the myriad of exhibitions, pop-up art galleries, special events throughout Historic Overtown’s cultural and historical venues under the “Soul Basel” moniker.

Soul Basel is sponsored and supported by Miami City Commission Chairman Keon Hardemon, the Southeast Overtown / Park West Community Redevelopment Agency (SEOPWCRA) and the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB) Art of Black Miami.

Admission to both Hampton Art Lovers exhibitions is free. For complimentary tickets register here for “Elizabeth Catlett & The Hampton Arts” and here for “Ernie Barnes: Eyes Closed”.

Ernie Barnes Collection

Ernie Barnes was an African-American painter, best known for his unique figurative style of painting that was immortalized on classic television, including the “Sugar Shack” oil painting featured in the credits of the popular sitcom “Good Times,” which was painted in 1976 for Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” album. Art critic Frank Getlein called Barnes the creator of neo-Mannerism.

Hampton Art Lovers proudly presents “Eyes Closed” in partnership with the Ernie Barnes Estate, The International Review of African American Art, Southeast Overtown Parkwest CRA, Chairman Keon Hardemon, The Black Archives, Urban Collective, Key West Africana, Brooklyn Combine and UPS (The Fountains of Boynton Beach).

Barnes’ art has been admired and collected internationally. His national traveling “Beauty of the Ghetto” exhibition in the 1970s featured some of his timeless works as “Storyteller,” “High Aspirations” and “The Graduate.” His famous 1971 “Sugar Shack” dance scene appeared on the “Good Times” television show.

Singers loved his artwork for their album covers. Barnes’ most famous painting, “The Sugar Shack,” was also used by Marvin Gaye for his album “I Want You” in 1976. “The Beauty of the Ghetto,” exhibition marked the beginning of his Genre period.

Hampton Art Lovers Set to Make A Cultural Impact With Ernie Barnes artwork During Art Basel and Miami Art Week

Ernie Barnes: The Critics Corner

In 1972, it debuted at the distinguished Heritage Gallery, before beginning a nationwide tour to museums around the country — hosted by such dignitaries as Ethel Kennedy, Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley, Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson, and Durham (North Carolina) Mayor James Hawkins. During this period almost all of the people in Barnes’ paintings were depicted with their faces obscured or their eyes closed.

Barnes stated, “I won’t paint people with their eyes open,” explaining “We don’t see each other, we are blind to each other’s humanity.”

In 2009, Ernie Barnes passed away as he was developing an exhibition entitled “Liberating Humanity From Within.” This exhibition would have been a return to the concept of “The Beauty of the Ghetto.”

Elizabeth Catlett & The Hampton Arts Tradition

The Elizabeth Catlett & The Hampton Arts Tradition spotlights the works of Elizabeth Catlett, a world-renowned African-American artist who explored themes relating to race and feminism in her range of sculpture, paintings, and prints.

She was the granddaughter of freed slaves and is universally adored for her sculptures. Catlett was also just as adept in printmaking. Her print work almost exclusively focused on women, particularly Black and Hispanic working-class women.

Hampton University Museum is the largest collector of her work in this genre and working with Hampton Art Loves to share 30 pieces of her work with the community.

Elizabeth Catlett & The Hampton Arts Tradition at Art Basel Miami

Elizabeth Catlett: The Runway

“We are excited to present these two exhibitions in Historic Overtown. We celebrate Mr. Ernie Barnes’ 80 years of contribution to arts and culture and look forward to showing these never before seen masterpieces from his posthumous exhibition. Additionally, we look forward to exhibiting the works of Elizabeth Catlett groundbreaking 15 piece linocut series from 1946 entitled “Negro Woman.” This is an epic commemoration of the historical oppression, resistance, and survival of African-American women”, says Christopher Norwood, Co-Founder-Hampton Art Lovers.

“In exhibiting the great works of art by Ernie Barnes and Elizabeth Catlett, the CRA again highlights the Historic Overtown as the center of art and culture for the African Diaspora in Miami-Dade County,” said  Chairman Keon Hardemon.

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The Everyday Dangers of Being Black in Seattle

Black Sorrows

Black Everyday Woes Charles Mudede

Not too long ago, I was informed by a concerned white friend that I was too aloof and needed to be more aware of others. It seems that many people I know are certain that I do not know them. I walk by them as if they are complete strangers or do not exist. They sometimes smile at me, but I do not smile back. My mind is clearly elsewhere. The experience of my aloofness, I was led to believe, tends to be unsettling. Was I angry at the ignored person? What did they do wrong? Was I just a snob?

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The upshot is I decided to be more friendly to others. If I noticed someone I thought I knew, I would smile at them or do a bit of American ribbing. The first day of the experiment seemed to go well. The second, however, did not. What happened is this: While walking to the last car of a northbound Link train that had just arrived at Columbia City Station, I noticed someone I was certain I knew, and who, under normal circumstances, I would have ignored, because usually the only amount of consciousness I give a person on a platform (or street or hallway or what have you) is either, in the way or not in the way.

As I walked to the last car, I quickly stopped to say something short and friendly-like. But before a word came out of my mouth, the person, a white woman, who turned out to be a total stranger to me (and I to her) screamed and leapt away from me with real horror. I totally freaked her out. I tried to explain my error but realized it was too late. I jumped into my car. She went into the second one.

But here is the thing. Let’s say a police officer saw this incident and assumed that a black man was attacking a white woman. What would have happened then? The incident clearly placed me in a situation of danger. With black men, it’s not unusual for an officer to shoot first and sort out the matter later. Black men begin as criminals, and are only cleared after an investigation that made every attempt possible to justify the killing. Luck was on my side that day. There were no police officers on the platform.

When I described this incident to the black artist Natasha Marin, she told me: “It seems being aloof protects from the dangers of being black.”

I will end this post on a positive note: Sound Transit Link is really booming. Its ridership is up nearly 7 percent compared to this time last year. An impressive 81,000 people use Link on an average weekday.

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Rubell Family Collection Might Not Leave Wynwood After All

Even locals who don’t know squat about Miami Art Week can tell you about the old Drug Enforcement Administration warehouse on NW 29th Street, stacked year-round with contemporary artworks. The Rubell family has housed its extensive collection of contemporary art there for a quarter-century. But that era is coming to an end. Two years after the Rubell Family Collection (RFC) announced its intention to relocate to Allapattah in 2019, this December’s exhibit could be the last in its storied space.

Then again, RFC may not shutter those Wynwood warehouse doors for good.

“There is a chance that we may be able to continue, at least for a while, and present exhibitions here [in Wynwood] as well, so have two exhibitions concurrent with each other — one here and the other in Allapatah,” says museum director Juan Roselione-Valadez. “What we’d love to do here is present single artist surveys and retrospectives in this building.” Roselione-Valadez is quick to clarify that nothing is confirmed yet, other than that this year’s exhibition will run through June of 2019, and the new museum plans to open next fall.

The history of the Rubell collection stretches back 25 years. In 2002, when Art Basel chose Miami Beach to debut its American offshoot of the international contemporary art fair, a community of 180 exhibitors put their art on display. Among those exhibitors was the Rubell Collection, with founders Mera and Don Rubell credited as one of the primary reasons the festival selected Miami in the first place.

At the time of that first Miami-based Basel, the Rubell Family Collection was nine years old. Founded in 1993, Mera remembers what it felt like to gaze up at that 45,000-square-foot dilapidated warehouse building. “We couldn’t believe that we would ever fill that building,” she says. “And now we’ve outgrown it.” 

From its conception, the collection has amassed size and spectacularity. Mera and Don, alongside their children Jason and Jennifer, have been instrumental in supporting young artists worldwide through their collection and hailed as one of the most powerful families in South Florida. Resident artists like Tomm El-Saih, who will be featured in the collection’s upcoming exhibition, praise the magnitude of RFC’s positive influence: “I have been nourished by their extensive holdings, and always expected with huge curiosity what they were going to present next.” El-Saih says she’s honored to be included in this season’s show. “Their exhibitions introduced me to a group of emerging artists from around the globe, whose works I couldn’t have [otherwise] seen all at once.”

Ambitious, thematic exhibits have been a hallmark of Rubell’s offerings through the years. “No Man’s Land: Woman Artists from the Rubell Collection” filled the exhibition space with art created by women in 2015, as issues of female representation in museums and galleries were coming to a head. In 2008, “30 Americans” focused on works by black artists; today, the show has traveled to over a dozen museums, and continues to tour, with dates reaching into the year 2020.

“That show has transformed our understanding of our relationship to presenting art to the public,” says Mera. “It has taught us about the responsibility and impact that art can have.”

This year, the Rubells are celebrating their quarter-century of exhibitions at the warehouse by shining a spotlight on local art hero Purvis Young. “Art saved Purvis. And Purvis saved art,” says Mera, whose collection contains more than 3,000 of the artist’s paintings. “He taught us what art is, which is just the absolute depth of what we share as human beings. We share sorrow, pain, love of family, hope — it’s all in his work.”

In his lifetime, Young became a local celebrity and fixture in contemporary art. After spending three years in prison as a teenager, which was where he first stumbled across art books in the library, the Miami native went on to produce his first protest-art-inspired mural and captured the attention of the art world. Young died in 2010.

As much an activist as an artist, Purvis was passionate about using his craft to send messages of sociopolitical dissent. Over 100 of his works now sit in RFC, awaiting the December launch and unveiling of never-before-seen work by the acclaimed painter.

“Purvis Young and New Acquisitions” is the first time all seven of RFC’s first-floor galleries will be given over to a single artist. “We needed the space to really illustrate all of his really pressing and really moving concerns, be it refugees, or mass incarceration or drug abuse or the need for civil protest,” says Roselione-Valadez.

For the team at RFC, admiration for Young runs deep. “We think he’s just unparalleled here as an artist. Really so, so significant. So many people in Miami and abroad have his work too, which is special,” says Roselione-Valadez. “It was work that was and that is accessible to acquire, and his voice is really widespread.” 

Purvis’ legacy is timely, too. “I also think there’s a timeliness to this exhibition,” shares RFC’s registrar, Laura Randall. “When you think about when he left jail in the early ’60s, it was the time of all of these antiwar protests, the Civil Rights movement. You’ll see these themes are just as relevant today as they were then.”

Original artwork by Purvis Young.EXPAND

Original artwork by Purvis Young.

Courtesy of RTC


“Purvis and New Acquisitions” will run through June 2019. Moving to Allapatah is next on the horizon; Roselione-Valadez says they expect to open the first exhibition there next November.

Then, says Mera Rubell, anything can happen. Based on RFC’s past success, it wouldn’t be too wild to wonder if the 100,000-square-foot Allapatah building may one day find itself past capacity.

“Twenty-five years later, a building which we thought was beyond our imagination to fill, we filled. And now the building in Allapatah is beyond our imagination,” says the collector. “At the moment, I can’t imagine that we would ever need more space than what we’ve just committed to. But the journey is long and who knows where we’ll be 25 years from now.”

“Purvis Young and New Acquisitions.” Monday, December 3, to June 29, 2019, at the Rubell Family Collection, 95 NW 29th St., Miami; 305-573-6090; rfc.museum. General admission costs $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors (65+), and is free for those under 18 and members of the U.S. military. During Miami Art Week, the collection is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

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Culture and art intertwine at Art Africa Miami Arts Fair – while celebrating Historic Overtown legacy

Artist: Miles Regis Mx. Oops.

Eight years may seem like a long time but for architect and cultural arts influencer Neil Hall, 72 months is not nearly long enough to promote the generous contributions of the Black diaspora, which dates to the beginning of time.

Hall’s inaugural Art Africa Miami Arts Fair (AAMAF) opening was purposefully established in Historic Overtown in 2011, setting a precedent as the largest showcase of contemporary artists from the African Diaspora during Art Basel.

This year’s theme confronts all stereotypes and forms of ignorance with a bold statement: “Black Art Matters: It’s Not A Choice.” The Art Africa Miami Arts Fair takes place at 919 and 920 NW 2nd Ave. in Miami, Dec. 5-9.

Organized with the support of the Southeast Overtown Parkwest (SEOPW) Community Redevelopment Agency, the fair continues to bring a vital and essential cultural service to the South Florida community, lending the Magic City a truly international flair.

A vibrant cultural legacy was established in Overtown, once known as the cultural hub of Miami. Hall has been committed to expanding upon on that legacy by promoting contemporary art from the global Black community.

Our Psyche and Thoughts
“Art stirs the soul and your imagination,” says Hall, visionary and licensed architect. “The visual arts are a critical aspect to all of us as human beings. It started with the caveman just sketching things. It is important to our psyche and thoughts.”

Black Art Matters: It’s Not a Choice explores how Black art has always been and still is about an intellectual, political, and artistic rereading, trying to think of the contemporary condition of peoples that have been involved in struggles to stay human. Black Art Matters unveils how the contemporary accommodates itself with oppression thus the necessity for Black proclamations of emancipation, independence, liberation, and revolution.

Art has always been a tool to claim space, build power, and to question the injustices that have shaped Black social experiences. In the world of art and culture, artists are responsible for offering the viewer a chance to challenge society by bringing new meaning to the way the world is perceived. Art Africa ensures that artist of the African and Black Diaspora have that platform.

The central idea of AAMAF is to present an array of visual works that pay homage to the centrality of Africa and its descendants’ contributions to the modern art world. Hall notes, “Many people are defined by the art they create.”

A Means to Development
The SEOPW Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) has demonstrated a commitment to using as the arts as a means of economic development. From commissioning legendary artist Pervis Young to paint its major overpass to sponsoring the annual Overtown Music and Arts Festival, and being an original partner in AAMAF, the CRA uses these investments as opportunities to attract cultural tourists to the area and revitalize the CRA boundary.

“Art Africa has been a catalyst for the inclusion of Black Art in Overtown during Miami’s Art Basel Week,” said SEOPW CRA Executive Director Cornelius Shiver. “The fair’s presence continues to highlight the historic community of Overtown and the importance of infusing art, culture, and entertainment with our revitalization efforts.”

Artists of the 2018 Art Africa Miami Arts Fair include: Abiola Akintola, Andre Sptinger, Candice Saint Williams, Christina Nicola Dachi Cole, Emilio Martinez, Jasmine Murrell, Lyric Prince, Miles Regis Mx. Oops, Najee Dorsey, Papa Samba Ndiaye, Pozi Kolor, Rhea Leonard, Rudolph Kohn, Sienna Shields, Sim Malden, Tiana Reid, Turgo Bastien, Marvin Weeks,

What Black Art Means
Black art performs an educational function through graphic representations of human conditions from a variety of points of view and with different media. The 2018 edition of Art Africa Miami explores how Black art remains to be about the production of knowledge – the intellectual, political, and artistic rereading, and thinking about the contemporary condition of people that have been involved in struggles to maintain their humanity.

Black Art Matters because Black peoples’ lives matter and artists have always been central to this affirmation. For more, visit artafricamiamifair.com. Also follow on social media at IG-@artafricamia.


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Mahershala Ali channels the pain of frustrated black artists in ‘Green Book,’ but sees Hollywood’s changing attitude

“Dr. Shirley used to just say, ‘Thank you, Tony,’ and that’s it, that’s the scene,” recalled Ali over lunch in Los Feliz. “Like, ‘I appreciate it, you’re right. People love my music and despite the racism, what I became as a result is alright, I’m cool with it.’ And that scene always ate at me. It just didn’t ring true to me as a black person. It felt like what I would call a ‘TV moment.'”

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British Museum finally agrees to ‘loan’ stolen Benin bronzes to Nigeria

The heat has been on Europe and its museums to return all African artifacts taken “without consent”. The British Museum however is making plans for the stolen Benin bronzes to be returned to Nigeria, but with strings attached.

According to a report referenced by The Guardian, about 90% of Africa’s cultural heritage, as well as other kingdoms colonised, currently lies outside the continent. For Benin Bronzes taken from Nigeria alone, there are more than 1,000 of them being held at museums across Europe, with the most valuable collection at the British Museum in London.

play British Museum makes plans to loan Benin bronzes to Nigeria (CNN)

Countries like South Sudan, Ethiopia, Easter Island, China, India have been pushing for sacred artifacts that were plundered by British, German, French, Portuguese soldiers, to be returned to their rightful places. Nigeria is not absent in this fight.

In fact, Nigeria has been brazenly demanding for the return of its looted artifacts right from time. In 1977, the Nigerian government offered to pay Britain £2m to loan us the Queen Idia ivory mask for the second pan-African Festival of Black & African Arts & Culture (FESTAC). The plea fell on deaf ears and the pride of the Benin people didn’t make it home for one of the largest celebration of black arts and culture, FESTAC 77.

So why is Europe changing its mind now?

Who is bringing the heat?

Britain should return all stolen artifacts back to Nigeriaplay British Museum makes plans to loan Benin bronzes to Nigeria (YouTube/Marvel )

In an epic scene in one of the biggest movies of 2018, Black Panther, a white female guide at the British Museum was schooling Killmonger, an African-American anti-hero, about historical art pieces from Ghana, Nigeria and Wakanda. The female guide mistakenly attributed an ancient mask to Benin but Killmonger corrected her by stating it was from Wakanda, and proceeded to reclaim it for his home country.

This scene is just one of the many reasons why the world could not continue to pretend that these artifacts were not actually stolen.

British soldiers in Benin during the expeditionplay

British soldiers in Benin during the expedition

(Asiri Magazine )

Another heat-packer is the French President Emmanuel Macron. The President recently called for a Euro-African conference on the return of African artifacts to be held in Paris by next April and has also declared that France would restitute 26 objects pillaged by French troops from King Behanzin’s palace in Abomey, Benin in 1892.

This development puts more pressure on other European countries and intensifies Africa’s push for the return of its cultural heritage items.

We cannot talk about these reasons without referring to the recent visit by the British Prince Charles and his wife to Nigeria, and other West African countries. In a meeting with prominent rulers from all the geo-political zones of Nigeria, the Oba of Benin, Eheneden Erediauwa Omo N’Oba Ewuare II, used the opportunity to bring up the return of the Benin bronzes to the Prince, saying:

“Suffice to say that Nigerians in general and Benin people in particular, will be most delighted to have Your Royal Highness throw his royal weight behind our efforts to have some of our ancient artifacts that were taken in 1897 from the Royal Court of Benin returned to Benin to establish Oba Palace Museum for the promotion of tourism in Benin city, Edo state.”

Talk about taking advantage of a good opportunity.

The conditional return of the Benin Bronzes to Nigeria

So far, reports have been hopeful. However, the reality of the return of stolen artifacts to Nigeria is not as it seems.

According to CNN, a deal was struck last month by the Benin Dialogue Group (BDG) that would see “some of the most iconic pieces” in the historic collection returned on a temporary basis to form an exhibition at the new Benin Royal Museum in Edo State within three years.

In other words, the items will be “loaned” to Nigeria, to pacify agitations.

ALSO READ: Britain should unconditionally return all stolen artifacts to Nigeria

The BDG consists of representatives of several European museums, the Royal Court of Benin, Edo State Government, and Nigeria’s National Commission for Museums and Monuments.

A spokesperson for the British Museum says to CNN, that the return is dependent on the completion of a new standard museum in Benin City, Edo state, that can suitably house a rotation of highly delicate Benin works of art from a consortium of European museums.

The top things to see and do in Benin City- Museumplay

The top things to see and do in Benin City- Museum

(Nigeria Intl Calling)

“The museums in attendance have all agreed to lend artifacts to the Benin Royal Museum on a rotating basis, to provide advice as requested on building and exhibition design, and to cooperate with the Nigerian partners in developing training, funding, and a legal framework for the display in a new planned museum,” the spokesman said.

The new Royal Museum is to be adjacent to the Royal Palace that once housed many of the bronzes.

The group is still to converge to discuss which pieces will be returned and how many.

It is silly to think that valuable cultural items that were stolen, in a bloody and humiliating raid nonetheless, are being loaned to the rightful owner. However, it is a step in the right direction and we can’t wait for news on a more permanent return.

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‘Green Book’ Is About Race — And Also Friendship, Class And Masculinity

Mahershala Ali as musician Donald Shirley in Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly. Universal Pictures, Participant, and DreamWorks hide caption

toggle caption

Universal Pictures, Participant, and DreamWorks

Mahershala Ali as musician Donald Shirley in Green Book, directed by Peter Farrelly.

Universal Pictures, Participant, and DreamWorks

Don “Doc” Shirley could have been one of the most famous classical musicians in the world had it not been for the color of his skin.

As a black man playing piano in the 1960s, Shirley was excluded from many of the great American music venues of the day. The indignities continued when he decided to tour the Deep South in 1962. Not only did he have to play what he felt were less desirable stages and styles, but the trip also required a white driver to get him safely from club to club.

The movie Green Book tells the story of Shirley and of his friendship with Tony Vallelonga, the white man he hired as his driver during that 1962 tour. In an interview with NPR, Mahershala Ali, who plays Shirley, describes why the musician felt compelled to go south.

“It would have been too easy for him to stay up north or go to Europe and tour and travel and make money,” Ali tells Morning Edition co-host Rachel Martin. “I think he was seeking to penetrate the stereotypes, especially once you cross that Mason-Dixon line. Doc Shirley wanted to expose himself to that environment for the good of changing minds and hearts.”

On the tour, Shirley and Vallelonga used The Negro Motorist Green Book, a directory of businesses across the country that welcomed black travelers at a time when many places didn’t.

A classical pianist and composer, Shirley grew up with dreams of playing on the world’s most prestigious concert stages. He began collecting musical achievements early, learning piano at the age of 2 and performing his professional debut with Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1 in B-flat minor at the Boston Pops at 18.

But Shirley’s dreams of playing classical piano were deferred when a mentor advised that as a black man, he wouldn’t be welcomed on concert stages around the world. He diverted from his classical aspirations to playing jazz, performing genre-bending compositions that also blended Negro spirituals and hints of classical music.

Interview Highlights

On why Shirley hired Vallelonga, who was openly racist, to drive him

I don’t know if he would have even thought he could find someone else that would be that different. If you think about a white man agreeing to work for a black man in 1962 and drive him around in the South, it would have been challenging to find someone who could check all the boxes. I think that he approached it — and I’m guessing a bit — but I believe he would have approached it from the standpoint of believing that he would be able to be in control of the space in the car because he is the boss. He tolerates it because for him to complete this tour he needs his presence, but Tony needs Doc as well.

On the film’s themes of masculinity and identity

It is a lot about masculinity and identity – and also giving people space to define that for themselves. As we’re born, we’re constantly having this negotiation between who we feel we are or what we feel we are with what the world is saying and guiding us to be, so that we all fit nicely into our categories. It’s so much more complicated than that. I haven’t seen Don Shirley’s archetype before, and that was something that was really attractive to me because he was multidimensional.

If you look at Nina Simone — as much as we love and appreciate Nina Simone and her contributions to music and art — Nina Simone was never the Nina Simone that she wanted to be. She wanted to be a classical pianist. Don Shirley wanted to be a classical pianist. That’s the experience of the black artist in this country — constantly being pointed and steered towards what’s commercially profitable or where socially you’re acceptable but not necessarily toward your talent and your freedom, and therefore eventually the fulfilling of your own potential.

On Ali’s own perspective of fulfilling his potential as a black artist

Looking from my father to my grandfather, grandmother, my family — you inherit a little bit of the struggle. It means that even post-Oscar I have to advocate for myself. … It doesn’t mean that “Here is this trophy and then here’s a leading role.’ The conditions still are what they are, but you might have to say, “Hey, that second lead that you’ve handed me this script for? That’s a cool part but I’ve done so much of that in my life. This leading part? I really want to play that part. That’s the part I want to play.”

I’m proud, and I feel fortunate to be in that place where I am in a position to speak up on certain things and perhaps change things, not only for myself but for a whole community of people at times. And any and all of us in those type of positions, when we have that kind of platform, have to be very conscious of having that responsibility and do our best to do good and be responsible with it.

Note: The broadcast version of this story aired Nov. 23. The digital story published Nov. 27.

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Rubell Family Collection May Not Leave Wynwood After All

Even locals who don’t know squat about Miami Art Week can tell you about the old Drug Enforcement Administration warehouse on NW 29th Street, stacked year-round with contemporary artworks. The Rubell family have housed their extensive collection of contemporary art there for a quarter of a century. But that era is coming to an end. Two years after the Rubell Family Collection (RFC) announced its intention to relocate to Allapattah in 2019, this December’s exhibit could be the last in its storied space.

Then again, RFC may not shutter those Wynwood warehouse doors for good.

“There is a chance that we may be able to continue, at least for a while, and present exhibitions here [in Wynwood] as well, so have two exhibitions concurrent with each other — one here and the other in Allapatah,” says museum director Juan Roselione-Valadez. “What we’d love to do here is present single artist surveys and retrospectives in this building.” Roselione-Valadez is quick to clarify that nothing is confirmed yet, other than that this year’s exhibition will run through June of 2019, and the new museum plans to open next fall.

The history of the Rubell collection stretches back 25 years. In 2002, when Art Basel debuted its American offshoot of the international contemporary art fair in Miami Beach, a community of 180 exhibitors put their art on display. Among those exhibitors was the Rubell Collection, with founders Mera and Don Rubell credited as one of the primary reasons the festival chose to land in Miami in the first place.

At the time of that first Miami-based Basel, the Rubell Family Collection was nine years old. Founded in 1993, Mera remembers what it felt like to gaze up at that 45,000 square foot dilapidated warehouse building. “We couldn’t believe that we would ever fill that building,” she says. “And now we’ve outgrown it.” 

From its conception, the collection has amassed in size and spectacularity. Mera and Don, alongside their children Jason and Jennifer, have been instrumental in supporting young artists worldwide through their collection, and hailed as one of the most powerful families in South Florida. Resident artists like Tomm El-Saih, who will be featured in the collection’s upcoming exhibition, praise the RFC’s magnitude of positive influence: “I have been nourished by their extensive holdings, and always expected with huge curiosity what they were going to present next.” El-Saih says she’s honored to be included in this season’s show. “Their exhibitions introduced me to a group of emerging artists from around the globe, whose works I couldn’t have [otherwise] seen all at once.”

Ambitious, thematic exhibits have been a hallmark of Rubell’s offerings through the years. “No Man’s Land: Woman Artists from The Rubell Collection” filled the exhibition space with art created by women in 2015, as issues of female representation in museums and galleries were coming to a head. In 2008, “30 Americans” focused on works by black artists; today, the show has traveled to over a dozen museums, and continues to tour, with dates reaching into the year 2020.

“That show has transformed our understanding of our relationship to presenting art to the public,” says Mera. “It has taught us about the responsibility and impact that art can have.”

This year marks a quarter of a century of exhibitions for the warehouse, and the Rubells are celebrating by shining a spotlight on a local art hero: Purvis Young. “Art saved Purvis. And Purvis saved art,” says Mera, whose collection contains more than 3,000 of the artist’s paintings. “He taught us what art is, which is just the absolute depth of what we share as human beings. We share sorrow, pain, love of family, hope — it’s all in his work.”

In his lifetime, Young became a local celebrity and fixture in contemporary art. After spending three years in prison as a teenager, which was where he first stumbled across art books in the library, the Miami native went on to produce his first protest-art inspired mural, capturing the attention of the art world. Young died in 2010.

As much an activist as he was an artist, Purvis was passionate about using his craft to send messages of sociopolitical dissent. Over 100 of his works now sit in RFC, awaiting the December launch and unveiling of never-before-seen work by the acclaimed painter.

“Purvis Young and New Acquisitions” is the first time that all seven of RFC’s galleries on the first floor will be given over to a single artist. “We needed the space to really illustrate all of his really pressing and really moving concerns, be it refugees, or mass incarceration or drug abuse or the need for civil protest,” says Roselione-Valadez.

For the team at RFC, admiration for Young runs deep. “We think he’s [Young] just unparalleled here as an artist. Really so, so significant. So many people in Miami and abroad have his work too which is special,” says Roselione-Valadez, “It was work that was and that is accessible to acquire, and his voice is really widespread.” 

Purvis’s legacy is timely, too. “I also think there’s a timeliness to this exhibition,” shares RFC’s registrar Laura Randall. “When you think about when he left jail in the early ’60s, it was the time of the all of these anti-war protests, the Civil Rights movement. You’ll see these themes are just as relevant today as they were then.”

Original artwork by Purvis Young.EXPAND

Original artwork by Purvis Young.

Courtesy of RTC


“Purvis and New Acquisitions” will run through June 2019. Moving to Allapatah is next on the horizon; Roselione-Valadez says they expect to open the first exhibition there next November.

From there, says Mera Rubell, anything can happen. Based on RFC’s past success, it wouldn’t be too wild to wonder if the 100,000 sq. ft building in Allapatah may one day find itself past capacity.

“Twenty-five years later, a building which we thought was beyond our imagination to fill, we filled. And now the building in Allapatah is beyond our imagination,” says the collector. “At the moment I can’t imagine that we would ever need more space than what we’ve just committed to. But the journey is long and who knows where we’ll be 25 years from now.”

“Purvis Young and New Acquisitions.” Monday, December 3 to June 29, 2019 at the Rubell Family Collection, 95 NW 29 St., Miami; 305-573-6090; rfc.museum. General admission costs $10 for adults, $5 for students and seniors (65+), and free for any under 18 and members of the U.S. military. During Miami Art Week, the collection is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Sunday.

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Critics’ Picks: 10 Under-the-Radar Art Shows to See Now

The Bronx Museum of the Arts

In her career survey, “Image of an Image,” Rochelle Feinstein, a Bronx native, proves that she can do just about anything with painting. She can chronicle history or tell a joke. She can alchemize linen, photographs, newspapers, cardboard and photocopies into art. She can teach you something about looking and life. (Until recently, Ms. Feinstein was a professor of painting at Yale.)

This artist, a whiz with color, is a wisecracking New Yorker. She sprays and squeezes paint, and stains with it. Several works feel like odes to color charts or to the color theory art students learn in school. Her jokes are dark and wry. A black-and-white painting with big, chunky letters advertises “The Estate of Rochelle F.” (2009-10), a reminder of how artists (and particularly women) are often recognized only posthumously.

Image
Ms. Feinstein’s painting “The Estate of Rochelle F.” (2009-10) seems to comment on the tendency of artists to be appreciated only after death.CreditCollection Perez Art Museum Miami

A morbid strain runs through some of the works as Ms. Feinstein grapples with and battles the forces trying to shut down painting in favor of other media. “El Bronco” (1994) features a stark white tire print careening vertically down a black canvas, nodding to Barnett Newman’s color-field “zip” paintings and Robert Rauschenberg’s 1953 horizontal tire mark on paper — but also to O.J. Simpson’s Ford Bronco and the murders and criminal trial that polarized this country around racial lines in the mid-1990s.

“Love Vibe” (1999-2014) is a daisy-chain mural of six bright green- and-white paintings with janky black text that reads, “love your work” — except that the words appear in reverse, as if seen in a rear-view mirror. It is a reference to the way artists casually — perhaps insincerely — compliment one another’s efforts. It also feels like a love letter to painting and perhaps even to the viewer since, who knows? Maybe Ms. Feinstein loves our work — looking at, contemplating, writing about her paintings — as much as we love hers. MARTHA SCHWENDENER

Through March 3. 1040 Grand Concourse, the Bronx; 718-681-6000, bronxmuseum.org.

The Morgan Library & Museum

Jacopo da Pontormo’s “Visitation” (1528-30), which shows the Virgin Mary greeting her aged cousin Elizabeth, is at the heart of “Pontormo: Miraculous Encounters,” a show at the Morgan Library & Museum.CreditPieve dei Santi Michele e Francesco, Carmignano

The smallest of the fall’s great museum exhibitions centers on a single Mannerist masterpiece: Jacopo da Pontormo’s stunning “Visitation” (1528-30), which depicts the meeting of the Virgin Mary and her aged cousin Elizabeth. Both are pregnant (Elizabeth with John the Baptist); each is accompanied by a female attendant. It was executed for a noble family in Carmignano, Italy, where it hangs above the altarpiece in the parish church. The Morgan has installed the painting similarly, in the chapel-size Clare Eddy Thaw Gallery. I recommend sitting on the bench provided and gazing upward, as if from the first pew.

“Visitation” is a knockout, over nine feet high. The four women are larger than life, dwarfing two tiny men who are visible in the panel’s lower left corner, wearing white masks and lounging in front of a building. The work evinces Pontormo’s characteristic fineness of gesture and expression, most of all in the meeting eyes and beautiful, gentle hands of Mary and Elizabeth. Also characteristically, the figures float more than stand, their serenity contrasting with the swirling of their garments, which reflect the artist’s innovative penchant for sharp hues and pungent pairings.

Revived by recent conservation, Pontormo’s colors seem deliberately provocative, even today; they’re as much characters as the women, especially Elizabeth’s mint green dress and orange robe, and the hot pink over olive green worn by Mary’s attendant. Mary wears a light pink gown mostly covered by her traditionally blue robe, which here has a touch of topaz. ROBERTA SMITH

Through Jan. 6. 225 Madison Avenue; 212-685-0008, themorgan.org.


New-York Historical Society

“Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines,” one of the wry assemblages in the show “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean,” at the New-York Historical Society.CreditBetye Saar and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles; Robert Wedemeyer

Betye Saar, now 92, has been making important and influential work for nearly 60 years. Yet no big New York museum has given her a full retrospective, or even a significant one-person show, since a 1975 solo at the Whitney Museum of American Art. As the New-York Historical Society’s exhibition “Betye Saar: Keepin’ It Clean” demonstrates, the institutional oversight is especially baffling, as her primary themes — racial justice and feminism — are exactly attuned to the present moment and, indeed, to every American moment within memory.

Ms. Saar grew up in the Watts section of Los Angeles, watching the immigrant Italian artist Simon Rodia construct his fabulous towers from scrap materials. An encounter with Joseph Cornell’s art in the early 1960s convinced her that assemblage could be intimately scaled and politically pointed. By then, she was already involved in the Black Arts and women’s movements. Her 1972 breakthrough piece, “The Liberation of Aunt Jemima,” merges the two by transforming the racist stereotype of the smiling black mammy into an armed freedom fighter.

In the show at the New-York Historical Society, which comes from the Craft & Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles, the same figure appears, though the main transformed element is different: the old- fashioned wooden washboard, once a domestic staple and now an antique artifact. Generations of women, among them servants, used it to keep things clean, though without being able to erase the stains of racism and sexism from their lives. But in the present of Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, the struggle to do so goes on. “Extreme Times Call for Extreme Heroines” is the title of a work in the show. Someone should alert the major art museum on the opposite side of Central Park that there’s one such heroine here. HOLLAND COTTER

Through May 27. 170 Central Park West; 212-873-3400, nyhistory.org.


Frick Collection

“Virgin and Child With St. Barbara, St. Elizabeth and Jan Vos,” a painting by Jan van Eyck and his workshop, in the show “The Charterhouse of Bruges,” at the Frick Collection.CreditThe Frick Collection, New York

A cultivated show on the religious functions of early Netherlandish art, “The Charterhouse of Bruges” has been mounted in a gallery no larger than a coat closet — though a more apt comparison may be to a monk’s cell.

Bruges, which now attracts tourists with a taste for canal cruises and Belgian chocolate, was in the 1440s among Europe’s most dynamic cities for art and commerce. It was also home to a strict Carthusian order, devoted to silence, whose leader, Jan Vos, commissioned paintings by two of Bruges’s best artists for the order’s charterhouse, or monastery. They are reunited here: the Frick’s own gem-hard “Virgin and Child with St. Barbara, St. Elizabeth and Jan Vos,” probably begun by Jan van Eyck and finished by his workshop after his death, and another picture of the Virgin and the monk by Petrus Christus, lent by the Gemäldegalerie in Berlin. In both we see Vos in a smoke-colored hooded robe, kneeling before Mary, his hair severely tonsured.

A lover of Netherlandish painting could spend days contrasting these two Flemish artists’ handling of tempera, their detailed cityscapes, their care for Mary’s ringlets or Vos’s cloak. But the brilliance of this show, organized by the young curator Emma Capron, is that it looks beyond form to matters of use. The larger Van Eyck was for public devotion — viewers who said the “Ave Maria” before it would get 40 days deducted from their time in purgatory — while the Petrus Christus, no bigger than a sheet of loose leaf, could be clasped or even kissed during prayer. And other objects here, including a tiny, hinged wooden prayer bead that opens to reveal a minutely carved devotional scene, extend our view of European religious art beyond painting. These works were meant for so much more than just our gaze. JASON FARAGO

Through Jan. 13. 1 East 70th Street, Manhattan; 212-288-0700, frick.org.


Institute for the Study of the Ancient World

This Roman silver statuette of the god Mercury, capturing the everyday elegance of a lost world, is one of the highlights of “Devotion and Decadence,” at the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World.CreditBibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris; Tahnee Cracchiola/Getty-Bibliothèque Nationale de France

In 1830, a Norman farmer working a new piece of land near the village of Berthouville plowed up 50 pounds of ancient Roman silver. The hoard, which was eventually acquired by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, came to be known as the “Berthouville Treasure.” Having been buried on the grounds of a temple to Mercury, it included a statuette of the god, which, at nearly two feet tall, is one of the largest such pieces to survive from antiquity.

It is among dozens of works now on display in “Devotion and Decadence: The Berthouville Treasure and Roman Luxury From the Bibliothèque Nationale de France,” highlighting the achievements of ancient silversmiths.

Bright and gleaming in a climate-controlled vitrine after a yearslong conservation at the Getty, naked except for his emblematic staff entwined with snakes, the figure bears a curious resemblance to Michelangelo’s “David”: His tousled head is slightly oversize, and his muscular frame stands in a subtle contrapposto. But while he cuts an elegant silhouette and is an astonishing example of metalwork, what’s really remarkable about him is how ordinary he looks: Along with erotically themed drinking bowls, hammered platters decorated with elaborate mythical scenes, and a pile of broken-off silver cup handles, the statuette evokes a lost world of luxury in which even provincial households were well stocked with extravagant objets d’art.

Another Mercury figure, which survived in fragments, was reassembled in the 19th century with beeswax. The wax may have originally been tinted to blend in with the silver, but time has darkened it, so the figure is now at once a window into ancient wealth and 19th-century museum practice. WILL HEINRICH

Through Jan. 6. 15 East 84th Street, Manhattan; 212-992-7800, isaw.nyu.edu.


Grey Art Gallery, New York University

“The Italians Turn Around Milan,” a 1954 photograph by Mario De Biasi, is among the works in “NeoRealismo,” at the Grey Art Gallery.CreditArchivio Mario De Biasi

The artworks most associated with Italian neorealism are heart-wrenching movies that dramatize the hardships of postwar life. This exhibition makes the case for an Italian neorealist photography movement that may not have produced masterpieces at the same rate, but was more wide-ranging and less stark than its filmic counterpart.

Consisting of 174 pictures by 73 photographers, along with film clips, books and newsmagazines, “NeoRealismo” begins with Fascism. Mussolini’s ersatz populism and propagandistic imagery set the stage for the decades after the war, when the romanticization of everyday Italians who were striving to build up their lives and nation became increasingly expansive. Franco Pinna’s 1952 photograph of a woman said to be the town witch, who’s pictured reverently, like a saint, and Chiara Samugheo’s arresting 1955 series of women who are described as possessed demonstrate an embrace of the country in all its idiosyncrasies.

Many of these images vividly capture public life in Italy in the postwar years, like “Apulia Apulia,” taken by Gianni Berengo Gardin in 1958.CreditGianni Berengo Gardin

People are the beating heart of “NeoRealismo.” They’re shown close up, in portraits charged with intimacy, and far away, dwarfed by hostile environments. We see them in the streets or performing physical labor, rarely in their homes. Neorealism was interested in private life only insofar as it related to a public, collective one — a tenet summed up by Mario Ingrosso’s 1952 photographs of an outdoor wedding procession. (In one, the bride crosses a stream while someone holds the bottom of her dress.)

In this regard, the movement was unquestionably a political project. Yet the strongest images still adhere to artistic concerns, like Nino Migliori’s “People of Emilia. Summer’s Evening” (1953), with its rich shadows and quiet composition. In some cases, the photographers even let in a potent bit of ambiguity. A pitch-perfect 1960 picture by Gianni Berengo Gardin captures a well-dressed couple riding a scooter past a building on whose facade is printed a fading Fascist slogan: “Noi siamo contro la vita comida,” or, “We’re against the comfortable life.” JILLIAN STEINHAUER

Through Dec. 8. 100 Washington Square East, Manhattan; 212-998-6780, greyartgallery.nyu.edu.


Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum

An installation view of “Saturated: The Allure and Science of Color,” a show of almost 200 pieces at the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum.CreditMatt Flynn/Smithsonian Institution

This museum excels at exhibitions that brim with somewhat arcane information embodied by visually dazzling objects, and few subjects qualify for that approach like color. This show is all the more impressive because the nearly 200 items on view, which range through centuries, have been drawn almost entirely from the Cooper Hewitt’s vast holdings.

They are supplemented by around 40 illustrated books from the Smithsonian Libraries, including a rare copy of “The Great Art of Light and Shadow,” of 1671, in which Athanasius Kircher diagramed the basics of the color spectrum (minus violet) for the first time, and J.C. Le Blon’s groundbreaking “Coloritto, or, The Harmony of Colouring in Painting,” of 1725, which laid the foundation for color printing. But the uses of color in real life is the main story here, demonstrated primarily by one small, ravishing grouping after another.

There are connections to be made, like one between a carved lacquer covered box from 18th-century China and a tall green urn in 3-D printed nylon. And there are encompassing experiences to be had, including an alcove whose walls are covered in “Scenic Wallpaper” (also digital), designed in 2017 by Carnovsky. The presentation seems to require 3-D glasses but pops into focus once you step inside. Theory and practice frequently come together with unusual clarity. One example is the 2012 cotton blanket from the Index Collection that fabulously illustrates the tonal gradations of color printing — monotone, duotone and multitoned — from pale to intense. Think ombre. ROBERTA SMITH

Through Jan. 13. 2 East 91st Street, Manhattan; 212-849-8400, cooperhewitt.org.


American Folk Art Museum

Paa Joe’s “Cape Coast Castle,” one of 13 hardwood models of former Gold Coast slave forts in the exhibition “Gates of No Return,” at the American Folk Art Museum.CreditPaa Joe and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York; via American Folk Art Museum

Joseph Tetteh Ashong, better known as Paa Joe, makes coffins. After serving a long apprenticeship with his cousin Kane Kwei, who is credited with popularizing the use of figurative wooden coffins in Ghana in the 1950s, Paa Joe became the country’s pre-eminent funerary carpenter, turning out thousands of brightly colored lions, soda bottles, and automobiles for people to be buried in. Most of his exuberant pieces enjoy the light of day for only a few hours before they disappear into the ground. But in 2004, Paa Joe was commissioned by the art dealer and gallerist Claude Simard to make casket-size hardwood models of 13 former Gold Coast slave forts.

The seven of these that are now on display at the American Folk Art Museum don’t look like monuments to human misery. For one thing, they’re all freshly painted and immaculate, unlike the originals. Paa Joe also has a cartoonist’s gift for transmuting even the most complex and brutal material into a cheerful expression of his own artistic temperament. Architecture is compressed and abbreviated, and a pattern meant to suggest mixed stonework looks more like flying rashers of bacon. That’s not to say that the complexity is elided: Each model carries the names and dates of all its European occupiers (“1653 Sweden 1665 Britain”) as well as an unobtrusive door labeled “Gate of No Return,” and the subtext of a contemporary African meditation on the slave trade is as heavy as can be. It’s just that the work’s conceptual weight doesn’t hamper its overwhelming visual pleasure. WILL HEINRICH

Through Feb. 24. 2 Lincoln Square, Manhattan; 212-595-9533, folkartmuseum.org.


Guggenheim Museum

R.H. Quaytman’s “+ x, Chapter 34,” a work of oil, acrylic, snakeskin and gesso on wood, part of the show of her work at the Guggenheim Museum.CreditR.H. Quaytman

As you summit the Guggenheim’s spiraling rotunda, it is as if the exhibition of the Swedish artist Hilma af Klint (1862-1944) had suddenly exploded into 28 fragments, scattering small abstract paintings across the walls. This is R.H. Quaytman’s “+ x, Chapter 34,” a series of works made in 2018 in response to af Klint’s oeuvre from the last century.

Ms. Quaytman is the perfect artist to answer af Klint. One of the leading lights of contemporary post-Conceptual painting, she also organized a show of af Klint’s work at MoMA PS1 in 1989. Af Klint worked in series, and Ms. Quaytman works in what she calls “chapters.” And where af Klint took orders from spirits she claimed to have contacted through séances and other occult techniques, Ms. Quaytman, for this project, has adopted af Klint as her higher power, working in a more secular, channeled collaborative vein.

An installation view of the show in the Guggenheim’s rotunda. The exhibition’s works were created in response to the art of of Hilma af Klint.CreditThe Solomon R. Guggenheim Foundation; David Heald

Each bay in the Guggenheim’s upper spiral features a painting with a white circle in a deep indigo square. These feel like portals, abstracted suns or visionary eyes, but they also echo af Klint’s “SUW/UW Series” (1914-15), in which, drawing from theosophy and Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy, she treated painting as a vehicle for merging religions and philosophical systems. In a nearby wall text, Ms. Quaytman comments on how af Klint, working like a “mad scientist,” was able to join both rational and intuitive faculties to conjure invisible, metaphysical ideas.

In other muted, post-Minimalist panels, Ms. Quaytman borrows af Klint’s symbolic vocabulary, including the handwritten “+” and “x” on the first page of af Klint’s notebooks. Thoughtful and methodical, “x +, Chapter 34” is a quiet show, a perfect coda to af Klint. Where that Swedish artist offers a bright, dynamic symphony, Ms. Quaytman responds with a spare, restrained and slightly dissonant tone poem. MARTHA SCHWENDENER

Through April 23. 1071 Fifth Avenue; 212-423-3575, guggenheim.org.


Cooper Union, 41 Cooper Gallery

An installation view of “We Dissent … Design of the Women’s Movement in New York,” at Cooper Union. It includes, at far right, two 1971 posters by Faith Ringgold: “America Free Angela,” left, and “Freedom Woman Now.”CreditFaith Ringgold, Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York; Haisi Hu

This presentation is less an exhibition than a walk-in archive and reading room and, in that, it is intimate and inspiring. In posters, magazines, books and videos, it provides a historical overview of the printed matter that was designed by women over the past century or so to pursue the liberties long accorded to men.

Its ferment begins with an application for admission to the New York School of Design for Women, which was part of the Cooper Institute, as Cooper Union was initially called. That is followed by an enlargement of a handbill inviting women to the “First Feminist Mass Meeting” at Cooper in 1914. That rally was organized by the Heterodoxy Club of New York, founded in 1912 and lasting into the 1940s. In between, the show documents the influence of Marxism and the combined agitation for women’s and civil rights.

Discoveries include the marvelous woodcuts of Lucia Vernarelli, a member of the Redstockings; Faith Ringgold’s 1971 poster in support of Angela Davis, “America Free Angela”; and newsletters from the Lesbian Herstory Archives, including one memorializing Audre Lorde (1934-1992).

The show ends with a big, bold new banner by the Guerrilla Girls, whose handsome, emphatically designed posters have pelted the art world with dismaying facts about the demographics of gallery rosters and museum collections for over four decades. But the beating heart of the display may be several long tables’ worth of feminist literature that feature such classics as Simone de Beauvoir’s “The Second Sex,” and recent additions like the impressively thick “Feminist Manifestos: A Global Documentary Reader,” edited by Penny A. Weiss and published this year by the New York University Press. Thrillingly, all the books are available for browsing and reading. ROBERTA SMITH

Through Dec. 2. 41 Cooper Square, Manhattan; cooper.edu.

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If you love the classic hits of Motown, you will enjoy this show at the Edinburgh Playhouse

If you are a fan of Motown music head along to the Edinburgh Playhouse as there is a fantastic show on that soul fans won’t want to miss.

With music and lyrics from the Motown catalogue and book by Motown founder Berry Gordy, Charles Randolph-Wright’s production features a live orchestra playing all the best Motown tracks including Ain’t No Mountain High Enough, I’ll Be There, Dancing In The Street, Stop! In The Name Of Love, My Girl and I Heard It through the Grapevine, and tells the story behind the classic hits.

Motown The Musical is jam-packed with all the classic Motown songs. Pic: Tristram Kenton.

Motown The Musical is jam-packed with all the classic Motown songs. Pic: Tristram Kenton.

Berry Gordy was the man behind the Motown success story – bringing in a wide range of black artists to cross over into the mainstream in the Sixties and Seventies. In so doing, Motown broke down barriers and fought against the odds to create something more than a record label. In the process it transformed race-relations.

With just $800 borrowed from his family, Berry Gordy founded Motown Records and launched the careers of legendary artists including Diana Ross, Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, The Temptations, and many more.

Edward Baruwa is excellent in the leading role of ‘Berry Gordy’ and he is joined by Karis Anderson as ‘Diana Ross’, Nathan Lewis as ‘Smokey Robinson’ and Shak Gabbidon-Williams as ‘Marvin Gaye’ in the production.

Karis Anderson is best known as being one third of pop band ‘Stooshe’ who celebrated a top five single ‘Black Heart’ in 2012 for which they received a nomination for Best British Single at the 2013 Brit Awards.

Berry Gordy with his protege Diana Ross. Pic: Tristram Kenton.

Berry Gordy with his protege Diana Ross. Pic: Tristram Kenton.

The singers in this production are fantastic and they really do bring the classic Motown hits to life – Stop! In The Name of Love was a particular highlight as well as Dancing In The Street. The costumes are stunning too and they along with the choreography, set design, hair and make-up really bring back memories of the heady days of the 60s and 70s when radios played the famous Motown hits.

There are over 50 Motown classics all packed into this high energy production which is on at the Edinburgh Playhouse until December 8.

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