The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City has announced a gift of fifty-seven works by contemporary African-American artists.
The gift from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation's William S. Arnett Collection includes paintings, drawings, and mixed media pieces by Southern artists, among them ten works by Thornton Dial, including Out of the Darkness, the Lord Gave Us Light (2003) and African Athlete (1998); Four Hundred Years of Free Labor (2003), a sculpture by Joe Minter; and Woman Scolding Her Companion (1981), a drawing by Nellie Mae Rowe. The works also include twenty quilts created by women artists based in the area around Gee's Bend, Alabama, including Lucy T. Pettway's "Housetop" and "Bricklayer" Blocks With Bars (ca. 1955). Believed to have originated among slaves in the antebellum era, the area's quilting tradition is celebrated for its innovative geometric designs.
"This collection documents a little-known tradition that began in the Deep South, likely during the earliest days of slavery," said William S. Arnett, founder and chairman emeritus of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation. "It evolved and appeared in the open when the civil rights movement empowered these African-American artists to let their previously hidden visual arts come out of the woods and cemeteries and be seen in the front yards and along the roads. Art lovers and cultural historians everywhere owe a great debt to the Metropolitan, where this historic work will now be seen alongside the current and past art of the world’s great civilizations."