Sotheby’s Prize Goes to Black Cinema Survey at Academy Museum in Los Angeles

A poster for Oscar Micheaux’s 1931 film The Exile. Micheaux’s work will be included in the exhibition “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900-1970,” opening at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in 2020.


Sotheby’s has given its annual Sotheby’s Prize to “Regeneration: Black Cinema 1900-1970,” a survey exhibition to be held at the soon-to-open Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles in 2020. First awarded in 2017, the prize comes with $250,000 and is given to exhibitions exploring under-represented aspects of art history.

“Regeneration” is being billed as the first-ever major survey show about black filmmakers in the United States before New Hollywood. Curated by Doris Berger, the acting head of curatorial affairs at the Academy Museum, and Rhea Combs, curator of film and photography at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., the show was put together in collaboration with an advisory panel that included filmmakers Charles Burnett and Ava DuVernay; Shola Lynch, a curator at the New York Public Library’s Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture; and Ron Magliozzi, a film curator at the Museum of Modern Art, among others.

“This is an exhibition that will tell a story that is central to the history of this country, of the development of popular culture, and [touches on] issues of race and identity that are either unknown or have not been explored in the past,” Allan Schwartzman, Sotheby’s chairman and executive vice president, told ARTnews. “The potential impact of this exhibition is vast.”

The jury that awarded the Sotheby’s Prize this year included Schwartzman; Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England; Connie Butler, chief curator of the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles; Okwui Enwezor, former director of the Haus der Kunst in Munich; Donna de Salvo, senior curator of the Whitney Museum in New York; and Emilie Gordenker, director of the Mauritshuis in the Hague, the Netherlands.

In addition to its main prize, Sotheby’s also awarded $10,000 sums to five more exhibitions. Those shows are “ZUMU Hura: Tradition & Modernization” at the itinerant ZUMU: Art & Community (opening February 2019); a Henry Moore show at the Wallace Collection in London (opening in March 2019); a survey of contemporary queer abstraction at the Des Moines Art Centre in Iowa (opening in June 2019); a Robert Colescott retrospective at the Contemporary Arts Centre in Cincinnati, Ohio (opening in September 2019); and a Jackson Hlungwani exhibition at the Norval Foundation in Cape Town, South Africa (opening in February 2020).

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