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African American Art

Portrait of James Baldwin, 1945, by Beauford Delaney

For more than a century, the museum has been home to exceptional art by African Americans. Today our collection includes over 1,400 examples of fine and decorative art made by 250 artists of African descent. These numbers grow every year.

These works reflect a wide range of creative practices, ideas, and backgrounds. African American art is not an easily defined category, but a rich gathering of individual expressions by people who share the legacy of diaspora, or displacement from an ancestral land.

African American art is also deeply intertwined with the history of race in the United States—from colonial enslavement, to the civil rights movement, to today. These works are far more than a group of personal statements about identity or recorded moments in history. They have power, beauty, and meaning that extend beyond categorization to achieve timeless, universal appeal.