The unprecedented bequest of more than 650 works has been called the largest gift ever made of contemporary art by artists of African descent
The Studio Museum and Duke Ellington announced that legendary arts patron, educator and civil rights activist Peggy Cooper Cafritz, who died in February at the age of 70, bequeathed the majority of her unparalleled art collection to the two institutions.
The gift to the Studio Museum encompasses a multigenerational who’s who of artists of African descent, and will both bolster and add to the strengths of the existing collection. Among the artists represented are many alumni of the Museum’s signature Artist-in-Residence program, or those who have shown work there—demonstrating the shared commitment of Cafritz and the Museum to supporting black artists throughout their careers. Works by Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Sadie Barnette, Sanford Biggers, iona rozeal brown, Nick Cave, Noah Davis, Emory Douglas, Samuel Fosso, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Theaster Gates, David Hammons, Samuel Levi Jones, Titus Kaphar, Deana Lawson, Simone Leigh, Kerry James Marshall, Wangechi Mutu, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Chris Ofili, Ebony G. Patterson, Deborah Roberts, Tschabalala Self, Malick Sidibé, Lorna Simpson, Henry Taylor, Mickalene Thomas, Hank Willis Thomas, William Villalongo, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Kehinde Wiley, Jack Whitten, Saya Woolfalk, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, and many others, will join the Studio Museum’s over 2,000-object collection just as the Museum begins to celebrate its 50th anniversary year.
“We are humbled that the indomitable Peggy Cooper Cafritz chose the Studio Museum to help steward the legacy of her incredible vision,” Thelma Golden, director and chief curator of the Studio Museum in Harlem said in a statement. “Peggy was a trailblazing champion of artists of African descent, and at her core believed deeply in the power of art. Through her collecting and her support of artists, she quite literally transformed the way the world viewed black artists. She was also a great builder and supporter of institutions. Now, that astonishing belief in artists will prove transformative to the Studio Museum, as this gift broadens and deepens our collection at a historic moment in the life of our institution.”
The gift to the Duke Ellington School of the Arts—which Cafritz co-founded in 1974 and guided to its current status as one of the nation’s leading incubators of artistic talent—includes many artists who have had a personal connection to the institution such as faculty members Bill Harris and Jacqueline Maggi, or notable alumni including Hank Willis Thomas or Chinedu Felix Osuchukwu. The works will form the core of an active research and display collection for students at the Ellington School, home to the only high school Museum Studies program in the country.
Tia Powell Harris, Chief Executive Officer at the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, said, “Peggy still guides every step we take at the Duke Ellington School. By using this bequest to achieve her goal of imbuing our building with art, she will forever inspire not only our students and their families but the members of the public who come to us as a magnet for performances and exhibitions. It’s as if we will now have direct access to Peggy’s amazing vision, seeing the world’s possibilities as she did.”