Friday, 25 August 2017


“Art is a way to express oneself, it’s not about race or colour, but this exhibition is about giving a voice to a community so as not to forget,” says Elaine Harris, a British art consultant, speaking of a popular show at London’s Tate Modern.

The exhibition, Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power, takes 1963 as its starting point – “the height of the Civil Rights movement and its dreams of integration” – and brings together 150 artworks by more than 60 artists.

Benny Andrews: Did the Bear Sit Under a Tree, 1969.
Emmanuel Collection (c) Estate of  Benny Andrews
/DACS, London/VAGA, NY
Many of the works were created during the emergence of “more militant calls for Black Power". This was a "rallying cry for African American pride, autonomy and solidarity, drawing inspiration from newly independent African nations”, says the Tate, one of the largest museums for international modern and contemporary art.

It adds that artists responded to these times “by provoking, confronting, and confounding expectations”, and that their momentum makes for an “electrifying” visual journey.

“It’s certainly an eye opener to see the work of many talented artists, from all walks of life,” said Harris, who visits numerous exhibitions as part of her work representing renowned artists.

“The show highlights the injustices of the time and makes you look at America from a different point of view,” she told SWAN. “You can see what the artists were experiencing: oppression, shorter lives, less wealth, and very little liberty.”

Curated by Zoe Whitley, Soul of a Nation includes paintings, photography, murals, collage, clothing designs and sculptures. 

Some of the artists “engage with legendary figures from the period, with paintings in homage to political leaders Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Angela Davis, musician John Coltrane and sporting hero Jack Johnson,” the Tate says. Muhammad Ali appears in a famous painting by Andy Warhol.

This exhibition is an unusual chance to see remarkable art from an era that changed how some artists approached their work, according to the Tate. It also comes at a pertinent time, given recent divisive occurrences in the United States, and is sparking discussion about racism. American singer Solange Knowles, for instance, is collaborating with the Tate by showing videos of her work that reflect her view of Black womanhood, the museum announced in August.

Soul of a Nation runs until 22 Oct. 2017, at the Tate Modern, Bankside, London, England.

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