The combined gift and purchase comprises paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by thirty-three contemporary African-American artists from the southern United States, including thirteen works by Thornton Dial and eleven quilts by the women of Gee's Bend, Alabama. One of the most significant acquisitions by the museum's folk and self-taught art department since its establishment in 1994, the group of works also includes pieces by Lonnie Holley, Ronald Lockett, Joe Minter, Richard Dial, Eldren Bailey, Charles Williams, Vernon Burwell. Georgia Speller, Joe Light, Archie Byron, Mary T. Smith, Royal Robertson, and Purvis Young.
The acquisition is part of the Souls Grown Deep Foundation's strategic gift/purchase program, which is designed to strengthen the representation of African-American artists from the South in the collections of leading U.S. museums. To showcase the new works, the museum will increase the physical footprint of the folk and self-taught art galleries by 30 percent as part of a permanent collection reinstallation planned for 2018.
"When we unveil works from the Souls Grown Deep Foundation in our expanded galleries it will be a defining moment that makes undeniable the magnitude of achievement that has been realized by artists here in the South, regardless of their level of training," said Katherine Jentleson, the Merrie and Dan Boone Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art. "This is art that breaks boundaries and defies expectations, challenging long-held assumptions about where great art comes from and whom we acknowledge as the leading artists of our time."