Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power

Brooklyn Museum
Jack Whitten, Homage to Malcolm, 1970. © Jack Whitten (Photo: Christopher Burke)
Faith Ringgold, United States of Attica, 1971-72, © 2018 Faith Ringgold, member Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Installation View: Wall of Respect, Various artists/Organization of Black American Art (OBAC). Photo: Jonathan Dorado, Brooklyn Museum

Letter to the trustees of the Baltimore Museum of Art. May 28, 1969, undersigned by “The Cadre”. (full text below)

(May 28, 1969.)

Trustees, Museum of Art:

The killing must stop. The police must be disarmed.

A portrait by Pablo Picasso in the Cone Wing of the Baltimore Museum of Art has been defaced with a magic marker in the lower right hand corner. It could have been gouged with a finger nail. It could have been slashed with a razor or a knife. It could have been burned.

The damage is slight. We respect art more than the police respect people. It can be restored, unlike a corpse, but not forgotten. We will not let you forget.

Many of you, Trustees, are influential in the affairs of this city. We advise you to use your influence to put an end to police violence.

FROM NOW ON, EACH TIME A POLICE OFFICER (BLACK OR WHITE) KILLS A CITIZEN (BLACK OR WHITE) IN THIS CITY AND GOES FREE WITHOUT A PUBLIC TRIAL FOR MURDER, WE WILL MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO DESTROY A WORK OF ART IN YOUR MUSEUM.

A single human life is worth more than all the art of the ages.

Picasso would agree.

/ THE CADRE

Copy to: Mayor Thomas D’Alessandro, City Hall

Letter from Charles Parkhurst, director of the Baltimore Museum of Art, to Thomas S. Buechner, director of the Brookly Museum. June 6, 1969.
David Hammons, Black First, America Second, 1970. Body print and screen print on paper. © David Hammons
Emma Amos, Eva the Babysitter, 1973. © Emma Amos. Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), New York
Romare Bearden, Pittsburgh Memory, 1964. © 2018 Romare Bearden Foundation/Licensed by VAGA at Artists Rights Society (ARS), NY
Roy DeCarava, Couple Walking, 1979. © 2017 Estate of Roy DeCarava. All Rights Reserved

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power
Curators: Mark Godfrey and Zoe Whitley, Tate Modern; Ashley James, Brooklyn Museum.
Brooklyn Museum
14 Sep 2018 – 3 Feb 2019

A Rare Slice of Art History

“Suffragette’s reason for slashing a famous Velázquez with a cleaver.” (The Daily Mirror, March 11, 1914) Excerpted from Carla Zaccagnini, Elements of Beauty, 2012.

“On March 10th, 1914, at 11 am, Mary Richardson entered the National Gallery in London and stood in front of the painting by Velázquez known as Venus at the mirror, maybe not for the first time. She looked at it for a few minutes before letting the cleaver she had hidden up her sleeve slide into her hand. She then slashed the canvas several times. The first blow broke the protection glass and called the attention of guards and visitors, the following ones had to be quick and resulted in seven clean cuts on the painting area that represents the goddess’s naked back. She didn’t struggle as the museum guard and the police officer stopped her and took her to the police station. Following this incident, the Women’s Social and Political Union – WSPU, the militant association for women’s suffrage of which she was a member, made public a short text in which Richardson compares the destruction of the painting to the incarceration of Emmaline Pankhurst: ‘Justice is an element of beauty as much as colour and outline on canvas.'”

“The National Gallery outrage. Reproduction of the damaged picture.” The Times, March 11, 1914.
“MISS RICHARDSON’S STATEMENT. The Following statement, signed by Miss Richardson in explanation of her act, has been received by the Women’s Social and Political Union: – I have tried to destroy the picture of the most beautiful woman in mythological history as a protest against the Government for destroying Mrs. Pankhurst, who is the most beautiful character in modern history. Justice is an element of beauty as much as colour and outline on canvas. Mrs. Pankhurst seeks to procure justice for womanhood, and for this she is being slowly murdered by a Government of Iscariot politicians. If there is an outcry against my deed, let every one remember that such an outcry is an hypocrisy so long as they allow the destruction of Mrs. Pankhurst and other beautiful living women, and that until the public cease to countenance human destruction the stones cast against me for the destruction of this picture are each an evidence against them of artistic as well as moral and political humbug and hypocrisy.” (The Times, March 11, 1914.)

 

Text and images excerpted from:
Carla Zaccagnini, Elements of Beauty, 2012
Book, 24 x 20 cm, 172 pages, black and white
150 copies

 

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