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African American Art

In 1944, only nine years after opening its doors, the VMFA acquired its first work by an African American artist. Since that time, the Museum has remained steadfast in building a collection reflective of the African American experience and expression. In 2015, the VMFA redoubled these efforts, launching an initiative to significantly deepen its holdings of African, African American and African Diasporic artists as a means to expand its connection to an ever growing diverse community.

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The collection features masterpieces from early American to modern and later, contemporary artists. With such a vast arch across time, these works collectively underscore the dramatic shifts in the artistic, social and political landscape and their impact upon the creative expression. Through the work of such remarkable artists who range from Joshua Johnson to Kehinde Wiley, we are able to see the transformations within our society that continue to inform our multivalent culture.

Rumors of War by Kehinde Wiley

Rumors of War takes its inspiration from the statue of Confederate Army General James Ewell Brown “J.E.B.” Stuart created by Frederick Moynihan in 1907 and removed in 2020. As with the original sculpture, the rider strikes a heroic pose while sitting upon a muscular horse. However, in Wiley’s sculpture, the figure is a young African American dressed in urban streetwear. Proudly mounted on its large stone pedestal, the bronze sculpture commemorates African American youth lost to the social and political battles being waged throughout our nation.

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Works on Paper

Many artists made their greatest masterpieces using paper, such as Romare Bearden’s collage, Three Musicians. Works on paper, however, are much more sensitive to light than paintings or sculptures and require measured presentation. To preserve these objects, VMFA follows the American Alliance of Museum’s protocol of resting works on paper up to four times as long as the work has been on view. When not hanging in the galleries, these works can be found on the Museum’s website.


Radcliffe Bailey @ VMFA

Artist Radcliffe Bailey talks about his artistic process and what he hopes his art conveys. Come see "Vessel" in VMFA's permanent collection.

Julie Mehretu @ VMFA

Artist Julie Mehretu talks about the concepts, processes, and implications of her "Stadia" series, including "Stadia III" in VMFA's permanent collection.

LeRoy Henderson @ VMFA

LeRoy Henderson discusses his life and work documenting American protest culture with Dr. Sarah Eckhardt, Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art, on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. This program was a part of the educational programming related to the exhibition A Commitment to the Community: The Black Photographers Annual, Volume I, on view February 16, 2017-October 3, 2017 and Black History Month 2017.

Kehinde Wiley @ VMFA

Produced to accompany the exhibition, "Kehinde Wiley: A New Republic," this video series features the artist himself discussing his background, work, process, philosophy, and art historical influences.

Hank Willis Thomas @VMFA

American artist Hank Willis Thomas discusses his work and the construction of black identity through popular culture.

The interview was conduced by John B. Ravenal (Syndey and Frances Lewis Family Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art), VMFA.

Robert Pruitt @VMFA

American artist Robert Pruitt discusses his inspirations, his process, and elements of the absurd in this artist talk.