On Monday, Souls Grown Deep Foundation and Community Partnership announced that Tate Modern in London, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, and the Pinault Collection in Paris and Venice will acquire artworks from its collection. This marks the first time that works from the collection will be acquired internationally.
The Souls Grown Deep Foundation holds the largest collection of artworks by Black artists from the Southern United States, boasting roughly 1,000 works by more than 160 artists. Through the foundation’s collection transfer program, which aims to bestow the majority of its holdings to permanent collections at leading art museums, it has already placed more than 500 works in more than 30 museums across the U.S. These latest international acquisitions further cement the inclusion of Black artists from the American South within the canon of art history.
“It is critical that Black artists from the American South earn deserved recognition for their contributions to not just American culture and art history but to the canon globally,” Souls Grown Deep curator Raina Lampkins-Fielder said in a statement. “And these acquisitions signal a critical step in that overdue process,” she continued.
Tate Modern will acquire four quilts by Mary Lee Bendolph, Aolar Mosely, Louella Pettway, and Annie Mae Young — all from Gee’s Bend, a remote community in Alabama renown for crafting hundreds of quilts from scraps of fabric, dating from the early 20th century to the present. The museum plans to include the works in their collection of 20th-century American art.
The National Gallery of Victoria is in the process of acquiring a quilt by Martha Pettway, who often used a “housetop” pattern of concentric squares that could be repeated in numerous variations, as reflected in the 1930s piece.
The Pinault Collection acquired five sculptures by James “Son Ford” Thomas, who made small sculptures—often heads—influenced by his life in the rural South. The works were originally on loan for the 2020 group exhibition “Untitled 2020: Three perspectives on the art of the present” before being acquired.
“We are proud to see these talented artists recognized on a broader scale for their artistic contributions,” Souls Grown Deep president Dr. Maxwell L. Anderson said in a statement. “As U.S. museums work to remedy significant gaps in their collections, we are encouraging international institutions to expand their collections and provide an accurate narrative of American art history.”