Breaking News in Black Art: Innovative Painter Sam Gilliam Has Passed Away, Artist Vaughn Spann in Architectural Digest, Columbus, Georgia. Famous artist Alma Thomas and more

Latest News in Black Art features updates and developments in the world of art and related culture

Portrait of Sam Gilliam (1933-2022). | Courtesy of David Kordansky Gallery, Los Angeles, and Pace Gallery. Photo by Fredrik Nilsen Studio


The innovative abstract artist Sam Giliam (1933-2022) died June 25 at his home in Washington, D.C. He was 88 years old. Best known for his color-soaked sculptural paintings, unsupported by stretchers, he displayed the canvases in dramatic fashion, draped on walls and suspended from ceilings. Early in his career, at the height of the civil rights era when black artists were expected to produce work that was representative, political, or both, he embraced abstraction, forging his own path. In 1972, Gilliam was the first African-American artist to show his work at the Venice Biennale, where he was featured in a group exhibition curated by Walter Hopps in the American Pavilion. Born in Tupelo, Mississippi, Gilliam has lived and worked in Washington for most of his career. A major study of the artist’s work, “Sam Gilliam: Full Circle,” is currently on view in his hometown at the Smithsonian’s Hirshhorn Museum & Sculpture Garden. | Washington Post

Awards and honors

Five winners of the CAP Prize 2022 have been announced: Amina Kadous, Remofiloe Nomandla Mayisela, Lee-Ann Olwage, Mahefa Dimbiniaina Randrianarivelo, and Pamela Tulizo. The Contemporary African Photography Prize is awarded in partnership with the Eiger Foundation. | After

The 2022 Sobey Art Award shortlist celebrating contemporary artists in Canada has been announced. The five finalists include Stanley February, Azza El Siddique, and Tyshan Wright. The winner of the prize funded by the Sobey Art Foundation and organized by the National Gallery of Canada will be announced in November. | After

In Washington, DC, the National Portrait Gallery has launched a special collaborative project that coincides with the relocation of the Smithsonian Museum’s permanent galleries. “Perspectives: Atlantic Writers at the National Portrait Gallery” includes 13 portraits on display in the museum, with a selection expanded to 23 online. | National Portrait Gallery Video


The Atlantic was founded in 1857 when “some of the country’s most esteemed writers came together to start a magazine, which would argue against slavery and for union”. With an initial focus on abolition, this mission has expanded to include racial justice and civil rights today. Through this lens, the magazine collaborated with the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, on “Perspectives: The Atlantic’s Writers at the National Portrait Gallery”. The project invites contemporary Atlantic writers to interpret the museum’s wall texts for role models such as Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King Jr., John Lewis, WEB Du Bois, A. Philip Randolph and Booker T. Washington, characters histories and activists who contributed writing to the magazine. Marking the 165th anniversary of The Atlantic, the project can be viewed online and in all galleries of the Smithsonian Museum. | After

July 1: Today is Alma Thomas Day in the artist’s hometown of Columbus, Ga. The occasion marks the opening of “Alma W. Thomas: All Is Beautiful” at the Columbus Museum, the last stage of the traveling exhibition. The pageant is presented in conjunction with “Sand Unshaken: The Origin Story of Alma Thomas,” which delves into the biography of Alma Thomas and features objects and related ephemera from the museum’s collection. | After

george lucas and Melody Hobson, the married co-founders of the future Museum of Narrative Art in Los Angeles, were honored at the Museum of Modern Art’s Party in the Garden. Linda Goode Bryant, The founder of Just Above Midtown Gallery, the focus of a special MoMA exhibit opening in October, was among the artists who gave speeches at the annual event. | art diary


Based in Wisconsin, the recently established Ruth Foundation for the Arts is endowed with a $440 million bequest from Ruth DeYoung Kohler II. Kohler ran the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin from 1972 to 2016. His grandfather founded the Kohler plumbing fixture company. Selected by a group of artists, the first round of $1.23 million in grants ranging from $10,000 to $50,000 was awarded to 78 arts organizations, including Afro Charities, Benny Andrews Estate, Black Lunch Table, BlackStar Projects, Griot Museum of Black History, Project Row Houses, The Black School, Tamir Rice Foundation, The Heidelberg Project, and The laundromat project. | New York Times


Architectural Digest Featured The Mid-Century Modern Home Artist Vaughn Spann recently renovated for his young family in Maplewood, NJ “We were looking for a modern home, so when we saw the For Sale sign, I was curious. We immediately loved it. Nothing was negotiable, like the crumbling stairs. It was taken as is, so we did it,” Spann said. | Architectural Summary

No more news

The FBI raided the Orlando Museum of Art on June 24, seizing 25 paintings attributed to Jean-Michel Basquiat (1960-1988) which is believed to be false. A few days later, the director and CEO of the museum, Aaron De Groft, was fired. | New York Times

June 16, Tommie RobinsonThe portrait of the late Judge James E. Lanning was unveiled at the Mecklenburg County Courthouse in Charlotte, North Carolina Beloved local painter, Robinson is the first black artist to exhibit his work in the building and would be the first black artist to have a portrait exhibited in a Southern courthouse. | Charlotte post

Columbus, Ga.: In addition to the Alma Thomas exhibits at the Columbus Museum, another local project honors the artist. The AJ McClung YMCA has installed a mural on its facade that celebrates Thomas with a giant likeness. | Video by Columbus Ledger-Enquirer

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