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Kwame Brathwaite, “Untitled (AJASS Model on Black Background)” (1970s/2019) (Collection Pérez Art Museum Miami, museum purchase with funds provided by Jorge M. Pérez, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and PAMM Ambassadors for Black Art; all images courtesy PAMM)

The Pérez Art Museum Miami (PAMM) has acquired work by Gordon Parks, Tunji Adeniyi-Jones, and Kwame Brathwaite through the museum’s Fund for Black Art, formerly known as the Fund for African American Art.

Among the works to enter the museum’s collection is an iconic color photograph by Gordon Parks, the American photographer, writer, and director perhaps best known for his images documenting the civil rights movement. “Untitled, Harlem, New York” (1963) depicts a crowd in Harlem and was taken as part of Parks’ series on the Nation of Islam, made for LIFE magazine. In a video recording, PAMM’s chief curator René Morales said that the photograph captures the “indefatigable striving for freedom and justice that we associate with that era,” and “helps establish a historical foundation for the entirety of the works that we’re acquiring through this fund.”

Gordon Parks, “Untitled , Harlem, New York” (1963) (Collection Pérez Art Museum Miami, PAMM Ambassadors for Black Art © The Gordon Parks Foundation. Courtesy The Gordon Parks Foundation and Jack Shainman Gallery, New York)

A newly acquired photograph by Brooklyn-born artist Kwame Brathwaite, “Untitled (AJASS Model on Black Background)” (1970s/2019), depicts a glamorous model wearing a dress with patterns reminiscent of African American quilts. A key figure in the Black is Beautiful movement, Brathwaite was recently honored with his first major solo show, which opened in 2019.

The most contemporary of the acquisitions is “Dance in Heat II,” a fiery-hued painting made by Tunji Adeniyi-Jones in 2020 that depicts dancing figures. Curator María Elena Ortiz called the work “Matisse-like” and commended Adeniyi-Jones for engaging with the multiplicity of identity. The artist, who is currently based in New York, derives inspiration from his British upbringing as well as his Nigerian heritage.

Tunji Adeniyi -Jones, “Dance in Heat II” (2020) (Collection Pérez Art Museum Miami, museum purchase with funds provided by Jorge M. Pérez, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and PAMM Ambassadors for Black Art)

The double announcement of the three new acquisitions and the fund’s renaming took place on February 6 at PAMM’s eighth Art + Soul Celebration, an annual benefit held virtually this year due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event raised over $1.4 million for the fund.

The decision to rename the fund stemmed from a desire to “more inclusively describe the various identities represented by the fund, including Latin America and the Caribbean in addition to the African Diaspora,” the museum said in an e-mailed statement. The Fund for African American Art was created in 2013 from a joint gift of $1 million from Jorge M. Pérez and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation; since then, it has grown substantially, in part due to donations from an affiliate group at the museum.

Through the Fund for Black Art, the museum has acquired 23 artworks in total, including works by Romare Bearden, Lorraine O’Grady, Faith Ringgold, and Tschabalala Self. Some of the acquisitions are currently on view in the group exhibition Polyphonic: Celebrating PAMM’s Fund for African American Art, which will run through February. 

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Cassie Packard

Cassie Packard is a Brooklyn-based writer and cultural critic and a regular contributor to Hyperallergic.

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