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The Barnes Foundation to Present 30 Americans

10th anniversary of acclaimed exhibition, curated by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw

October 27, 2019–January 12, 2020
Press preview: Wednesday, October 23, 9:30 am

Philadelphia, PA, July 18, 2019—The 10th anniversary presentation of 30 Americans, a major exhibition drawn from the acclaimed Rubell Family Collection and featuring works by many of the most important and influential African American artists of the past four decades, will be on view at the Barnes Foundation from October 27, 2019, through January 12, 2020. From the canonical to the cutting-edge, the featured artists explore issues of personal and cultural identity against a backdrop of pervasive stereotyping—of race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, and class—addressing intersectional politics in unique and powerful ways. Curated by Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw, this exhibition includes works by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Mark Bradford, Nick Cave, Barkley L. Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Lorna Simpson, Mickalene Thomas, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, and Kehinde Wiley. The exhibition will be shown in the Roberts Gallery.

30 Americans at the Barnes is sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal.

Having traveled the country for a decade in various iterations, 30 Americans is a pivotal exhibition that has transformed the reception of African American art across the nation and around the world. The Barnes presentation marks the first time 30 Americans has been shown in the northeastern US since 2011, when it was on view at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Featuring approximately 60 works of sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, and video, the exhibition presents American experiences as told from the artists’ distinct perspectives.

Exploring complex questions of identity, equity, race, and politics, 30 Americans will take on new resonance within the context of Philadelphia. A racially diverse city steeped in history, Philadelphia is rich with creative culture and a variety of traditions deeply rooted in many of the same journeys explored in the exhibition. This presentation is the first occasion many of these important works will be seen in Philadelphia, a poignant reminder that black artists have historically been excluded from museums and cultural institutions.

30 Americans has been, without question, this century’s most impactful exhibition of work by contemporary artists of African descent,” says Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw. “More than simply an exhibition, it is a cultural phenomenon that has helped catapult the nascent careers of a number of the included artists, while also influencing and encouraging other artists and collectors across the country to pursue their individual visions.”

“We are very proud to present the trailblazing and highly influential exhibition 30 Americans here in Philadelphia, and to host an extended conversation about its significant impact over the course of the last decade,” says Thom Collins, Neubauer Family Executive Director and President of the Barnes Foundation. “We hope this presentation will also be an occasion for the Barnes to begin a public conversation about Dr. Barnes’s sustained involvement with and support for some of the now canonical African American artists who were his contemporaries.”

In the exhibition catalogue, the Rubell family explain the selection of the title 30 Americans, rather than, for example, 30 African Americans: “Nationality is a statement of fact, while racial identity is a question each artist answers in his or her own way, or not at all.” The number 30 was specified to acknowledge that the show represents just a selection of the talented artists who could be in it.

Nina Chanel Abney
John Bankston
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Mark Bradford
Nick Cave
Robert Colescott
Noah Davis
Leonardo Drew
Renée Green
David Hammons
Barkley L. Hendricks
Rashid Johnson
Glenn Ligon
Kalup Linzy
Kerry James Marshall
Rodney McMillian
Wangechi Mutu
William Pope.L
Gary Simmons
Xaviera Simmons
Lorna Simpson
Shinique Smith
Henry Taylor
Hank Willis Thomas
Mickalene Thomas
Kara Walker
Carrie Mae Weems
Kehinde Wiley
Purvis Young

Works in this exhibition are from the Rubell Family Collection. Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw is organizing curator of 30 Americans and the curator of the presentation at the Barnes.

Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw is associate professor of History of Art at the University of Pennsylvania and affiliated faculty in Latin American and Latino Studies, Cinema Studies, and Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies. She received her PhD in art history from Stanford University and taught at Harvard University for five years before joining the Penn faculty in 2005. She has been a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study and at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery; received a postdoctoral fellowship from the Ford Foundation; and served as a distinguished visiting professor at the University of Washington. She is the author of numerous publications on art and race in the US.

In May 2019, Shaw was appointed senior historian and director of history, research, and scholarship at the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery. She is the first woman and the first African American to hold this senior position.

The Rubell Family Collection was established in 1964 in New York City by Mera and Don Rubell. It is now one of the world’s largest privately owned, publicly accessible contemporary art collections. In 1993, the collection was moved to Miami, where it resides within a 45,000-square-foot repurposed Drug Enforcement Agency warehouse. In 1994, the Rubells created the Contemporary Arts Foundation with their son, Jason Rubell, to expand the family’s public mission inside the paradigm of a contemporary art museum. In fall 2019, the Rubell Family Collection/Contemporary Arts Foundation will move to a larger, newly renovated building in Miami and will reopen in December as the Rubell Museum.

The collection is constantly expanding and features such well-known artists as Jean-Michel Basquiat, Keith Haring, Jeff Koons, Cady Noland, Yayoi Kusama, Cindy Sherman, and Kara Walker. In addition to displaying internationally established artists, the foundation actively acquires, exhibits, and champions emerging artists working at the forefront of contemporary art.

Published by the Rubell Family Collection, the exhibition catalogue for 30 Americans features essays by Robert Hobbs, Glenn Ligon, Franklin Sirmans, and Michele Wallace. On the occasion of the exhibition’s 10th anniversary and its presentation at the Barnes Foundation, an essay by exhibition curator Gwendolyn DuBois Shaw will be included.

This exhibition is sponsored by Comcast NBCUniversal

30 Americans is organized by the Rubell Family Collection.

Generous support for this exhibition comes from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and Aileen and Brian Roberts.

Critical support for all exhibitions comes from contributors to the Barnes Foundation Exhibition Fund.

The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution that shares its unparalleled art collection with the public, organizes special exhibitions, and presents programming that fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. The Barnes collection is displayed in ensembles that integrate art and objects from across cultures and time periods, overturning traditional hierarchies and revealing universal elements of human expression. Home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and early modernist paintings—including the largest groups of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne in existence—the Barnes brings together masterworks by such artists as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent van Gogh, alongside ancient, medieval, Renaissance, and non-Western art as well as metalwork, furniture, and decorative art.

The Barnes Foundation was established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” Since moving to the heart of Philadelphia in 2012, the Barnes has expanded its commitment to teaching visual literacy in groundbreaking ways, investing in original scholarship relating to its collection and enhancing accessibility throughout every facet of its program.

The Barnes is open Wednesday–Monday, and tickets can be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215.278.7200. Ticket prices and current hours are listed on our website.

Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications
Online press office