The Detroit Institute of Arts has acquired two artworks by contemporary African-American artists — one a Detroit native — as part of Director Salvador Salort-Pons’ efforts to diversify the museum’s collections by acquiring and displaying more art by women, African-Americans, and other artists of color.
“I am excited about opportunities for the DIA to continue to collect art that reflects the myriad cultural experiences our visitors bring with them,” Salort-Pons says. “While we have long been on the forefront of collecting African-American art, I have been inspired by our recent ‘30 Americans’ exhibition to renew our focus on collecting more contemporary African American art. These two new acquisitions are visually stunning and provide insights and perspectives on African-American social, political, and historical issues that many of our visitors can relate to and find meaning in.”
The first acquisition is a photograph taken in 2012 called Zero Hour by Hank Willis Thomas. For the six-panel, large-scale photograph, Thomas posed fellow artist Sanford Biggers in a suit, gloves, and Derby-style hat, and then had Biggers painted half black and half white. Thomas included six photographs of Biggers in character, viewed from the waist up. The photograph represents the struggle between identifying as American and African-American, and moving between the two identities.
The other artwork is an oil painting created in 2008 by Detroit native Stefanie Jackson, donated by Brenda Thompson and called Little Girl Blue. The painting depicts the surreal scene of the unsolved murder of Jackson’s cousin in 1970s Detroit. Jackson has lost several close relatives to violence, and she keeps her memories of them alive by portraying them in her paintings.
Zero Hour and Little Girl Blue are now on view in the museum’s African-American art galleries.