For as long as art museums in this country have existed, they’ve had a problem.
Like so many institutions in the U.S., they’ve overlooked the contributions of African Americans. But just over a decade ago, in December 2008, a family in Miami set out to change that.
The Rubell family, led by husband and wife Don and Mera and their son Jason, have amassed one of the most staggering personal art collections in history. And in 2008, the Rubells debuted “30 Americans,” a collection of 260 contemporary works by African American artists like Jean-Michel Basquait, Kara Walker, and Kehinde Wiley.
The exhibition opened at the Barnes Foundation in October, where it will stay until January 12, 2020.
It was curated by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, PhD, an associate professor of History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania. In May 2019, she was appointed senior historian and director of history, research, and scholarship at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery—the first woman and the first African American to hold this position.
The Citizen sat down with Dr. Shaw to talk about art as activism, the importance of diversifying art collections, and how Philly can rally behind overlooked creators in the art world, and beyond.
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Interview recorded and edited by Dillon Sweigert; it was condensed and edited for clarity.Header photo: Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw and Don Rubell | Courtesy @bfa and @darian_chloe