Betye Saar
Betye Saar in her Los Angeles studio, 2015; photo: Ashley Walker; courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles via

The Los Angeles-based Getty Institute is working to preserve rich and historic Black artwork through the creation of a new research-based program surrounding African-American artists and their work.

Dubbed the African American Art History Initiative, the research will focus on acquiring pieces and spearheading research projects that will provide more context about artists connected to the African Diaspora. Armed with a $5 million budget, researchers will team with museums and organizations to push forward their work. Included among the partnering institutions are Spelman College, Art+Practice, the California African American Museum and the Studio Museum in Harlem.

“The study of African American art history is fundamental to a comprehensive understanding of American art history,” said James Cuno, president and CEO of the J. Paul Getty Trust. “We aim to bring our resources, talents, and relationships together to promote advanced research in an area of American art that has been underfunded and under-researched.”

One of the first acquisitions under the initiative is the work of assemblage artist Betye Saar.

“Saar is one of the major African-American artists in the region, somebody whom artists like John Outterbridge and David Hammons look up to. And she was born in 1926, so to start with something this wide-ranging is wonderful,” historian and project consultant Kellie Jones told The New York Times.

Saar said the collaborative aspect of the project will “help move important archives out into other facets of the contemporary art world, whether the classroom or the museum.”

WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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