For its final episode of the year, Art Fix, the storytelling platform for art, shines a spotlight on Black female artists. The episode, titled These Girls Are On Fire
follows the journeys of artists like Carrie Mae Weems, Amy Sherald, Jordan Casteel and Njideka Akunyili Crosby. Set on the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter movement, this episode shows how these artists are fighting for representation of both their gender and their race. Created with the support of various galleries and museums, and the contribution of featured artists themselves, this episode uncovers how this underrepresented demographic is demolishing stereotypes and claiming its rightful place in the art world. Next to the episode, Art Fix launches its first ever podcast
: 5 questions to Kasseem Swizz Beatz Dean.
Artist Deep Dives
The famous poet, author, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou once said that each time a woman stands up for herself, without knowing it possibly, without claiming it, she stands up for all women. These Girls Are On Fire kicks off by introducing the trailblazing Black female artists from the 20th century who did exactly this. Heavily inspired by the Harlem Renaissance, these earlier artists created works born out of the collision between the artists and civil rights. In doing so, Faith Ringgold, Carrie Mae Weems and Lubaina Himid paved the way for a new generation. Art Fix traces the evolution of Black female artists thereafter: from the practice of quilting to photo transferring, Art Fix shows how each artist celebrates their Black heritage in a unique artistic process. To give you a taste, the episode captures how Bisa Butlers reimagines her own Black heritage through quilting, the manner in which Dutch artist Iris Kensmil politicizes her paintings, the ways in which Jordan Casteel emphatically chooses her subjects, and more. Viewers will learn the stories behind the paintings and sculptures and the driving forces behind each. Kara Walkers famous work from the Tate Turbine Hall, for example, is decoded to be a strong anti-colonial statement. While the work may look like an eye-pleasing sculpture at first, Walker created the 'Fons Americanus' fountain to reveal the complicated history of the British Empire, using water as a key theme to symbolize the transatlantic slave trade. Viewers of These Girls Are On Fire are invited into the world of Walker to together discover the history of violence against Black people of Africa and the resulting diaspora. The full scope of artists celebrated in this episode is listed below:
● Faith Ringgold
● Carrie Mae Weems
● Lubaina Himid
● Kara Walker
● Iris Kensmil
● Amy Sherald
● Bisa Butler
● Njideka Akunyili Crosby
● Lina Iris Viktor
● Jordan Casteel
● Tschabalala Self
Bonus Material: 5 Questions
To support the message of this episode, Art Fix asked three influential Black professionals (collector, gallery director and curator) five burning questions. The kick-off podcast is reserved for the legendary music producer and DJ Kasseem Swizz Beatz Dean, who has been collecting contemporary art for over 20 years and created the Dean Collection. While Kasseem and his wife Alicia Keys share 22 Grammy nominations, they also share a strong passion for contemporary art. They collect from the heart - no matter color of the artists - but theres a strong imprint of Black artists in their incredible collection. In the podcast, available on the Art Fix website and Spotify, Dean dissects his famous motto By the artist, for the artist, with the people. Next up is Alexandra Giniger, director at Jack Shainman Gallery in New York. She shares the changes she has seen in the role of Black female artists. Finally, curator Destinee Ross-Sutton discusses how shes aiming to change the way Black art is understood.
Why Black Female Artists
While the Black Lives Matter movement has brought several Black female creatives to the forefront, they remain under-represented in the visual arts. According to Artnet, female artists represented just about 2% of the total art market in 2019. The results also showed that only 11% of all museum acquisitions over the past decade have been of work by women. And of that only 3.3% are Black females. Yet despite this white and mainly male art scene, Black female artists are carving out a space within the contemporary art world where they emphasize their black identity.
A Seat At The Table
Eva Langret, artistic director of Frieze London, said that visibility is an invitation to take a seat at the table; it is a form of progress. But co-hosting the party would be more appropriate. The urgency is in how to integrate diversity structurally. She continues to explain that it is critical to have an increase in Black gallerists, historians and curators, in order to achieve real change. These Girls Are On Fire demonstrates how these bold women, are making the art world less pale and male one stroke at a time.
In order to appropriately depict the Black visual artist experience in this episode, Art Fix
invited a special guest editor Alexandria Hillliard to contribute to These Girls Are On Fire. Based in Brooklyn, New York, Hilliard currently works as a producer at advertising agency Big Spaceship, where she produces television commercials for brands. Alex is passionate about creating space for black women in the media world. In her free time, she mentors other young black women who are trying to make their way into the industry. As someone who studied Art History in University, the lack of material on black female artists was glaring. The work of black female artists illustrates our world in an incredibly important lens that deserves to be shared in more spaces whether that is in texts, galleries, museums, fairs, etc. In the coming years I hope to finally see the art world take these small steps, Hilliard says when recounting her experience of editing the episode.