An art critic, curator, and author, Antwaun Sargent has become a leading voice for a rising class of Black contemporary artists practicing today. Less than a year after publishing his first book, The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion (Aperture), Sargent is serving up his next, as the editor of Young, Gifted and Black: A New Generation of Artists (D.A.P.), highlighting the works of Black artists from the Lumpkin-Boccuzzi Family Collection of Contemporary Art. An exhibition of the same name is currently on view at the Lehmann College Art Gallery (which is temporarily closed due to Covid-19) in the Bronx, New York, and is set to travel to a number of venues through 2022.
We recently caught up with Sargent to discuss the process of editing the book—which counts curators Thelma Golden, Lauren Haynes, and Jamillah James among its all-star roster of contributors—and how collecting can be a form of resistance, as Black artists continue the fight to claim space in the various institutions of the art world.
A lot has changed between the release of your first book and this one. What’s it been like working on this project over the past year?
Originally, this book was supposed to come out sometime this spring, but, as you know, we were adjusting to our new reality and it was pushed back. The art world is sort of coming back to life now, and it’s good to be able to have this conversation about a new generation of artists. This book is not only a document of a family’s significant collection of work by Black artists, but also of how we have moved, over the last decade, to a world where we’re seeing more and more Black artists being collected by museums, and seeing more and more Black artists’ concerns being expressed artistically in public domains.
How do you hope to shape those conversations?
One of the things that’s important in a project like this is to try to map the ways in which we have come to know these artists, and the ways in which the artists ended up in Bernard [Lumpkin] and Carmine [Boccuzzi]’s collection. For me, that immediately meant thinking through the different curatorial, artistic, and critical voices that have helped champion and develop the careers of these artists—and that also meant thinking about their immediate predecessors, the artists who might provide inspiration for the practices of this new generation. We have a cornucopia of voices that give a real sense of, as I like to say, how the sausage is made. Because, far too often, the art world is a very opaque place: You don’t really know the process of how work ends up in certain collections and, in turn, how those works end up before the viewing public.
It takes a village.
Exactly. It’s also sort of a check on the ways in which museums and the larger art world operate, because the story that we get—that museums woke up one day and said, “Oh, this work is really important”—isn’t really the case. There’s a great deal of advocacy that has had to happen in order to bring museums around to the power and possibility of Black art.
How did you first meet Bernard Lumpkin?
I’ve known Bernard casually for some time, because I would see him everywhere, at all the same shows, and we would joke about that. [Laughs] But I had not known his philosophy around collecting or patronage. I would go over to his and Carmine’s apartment and spend hours and hours interviewing him, and, frankly, challenging him, on a lot of topics. He was actively collecting when we were working on the book, so we got to have some really in-depth conversations about that, but also about how to protect the work, and how to do that with a certain set of ethics. Like, how early is too early to collect or sell a work?
We also spoke about the philosophies around his roles on the boards or acquisition committees at the Whitney, at the Studio Museum [of Harlem], and at the MoMA. What’s the role of a trustee? What’s the role of a committee member of a museum in the twenty-first century? Just having those really complex conversations, I think we both walked away with different understandings of those roles, but also as to my role as a writer. Some people would remark, “Why do a book like that? Doesn’t it explode the lines between criticism, artists, and collectors?” And I think that, you know, the art world has had an old way of doing things that excluded a great deal of people—many of whom look like me. I’m just not satisfied with that old way of thinking, because it was racist and sexist, and got us an art world where ninety percent of the fucking artists in museums are white straight men.
Looking back, what’s been the most fulfilling aspect of working on this project?
One of the sentimental aspects has been thinking back about my move to New York ten years ago, at age 21, and having no idea that the art world existed in the way it did here. I certainly didn’t have any clue that I would ever play a role in it, write about artists, or anything like that. Being brought into the art world by my friend JiaJia Fei really opened me up [to it]. She would take me to museums and artists’ parties, shows, and openings, where I’d meet artists like Eric Mack, Jennifer Packer, and Jordan Casteel—this whole generation of artists we’re talking about.
I didn’t have to learn about a great many of these artists because I knew them, I’ve written about them, and have grown up and come up with them. So in a way, this is a crowning of my first ten years in New York, and of the people who made this city livable for me. The city, of course, is a place that’s teeming with possibility, and to me, very magical in that way. As we talk about “the end of New York” or whatever [laughs], I know that my community is very much still here, and very much rooted here. That sort of reminder, during this time of protest and pandemic, is really important—to know that that world, in some way, is here, and will continue.
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Sometimes—especially in moments of political strife, pandemics, hurricanes, or all of the above—a television plotline caWatch a train wend its way around the fjords and farms of the Norwegian countryside over the course of seven hours, or see a sweater get made, in the time of a typical work day, from A to Z (beginning with shearing a sheep’s wool), set to the tune of cheery foldogs frolicking on a beach, a meandering stroll among flowering cherry blossoms in Japan, and a sailing trip to Tobago, accompanied by the soothing sounds of waves lapping against a boat’s exterior. The format can arguably be traced to n1963 film “Sleep” consisted entirely of his lover, the poet and performance artist John Giorno, napping. Regardless of its subject matter
For those of us who are lucky enough to have a full plate right now, consider helping those who don’t. One avenue for alCoalition for the Homeless, forced to cancel its annual fall fundraising gala due to the pandemic, is launching the Artist Plate Project, a limited-edition collection of porcelain platters depicting works by 50 legendary artists, including Tauba Auerbach, Ep. 25 of our Time Sensitive podcast). The series will be available on the organization’s website beginning Nov. 16. Profits from the heirloom-worthy tableProspect, will go toward serving the 59,000 New Yorkers who currently live in shelters or who struggle to survive on streets andA recent study by Columbia University predicts that homelessness will increase by 40 to 45 percent within the next year due to Covid-19—making the coalition’
Durham, North Carolina–based journalist and filmmaker Saleem Reshamwala has been particularly productive of late: In addBecoming America anthology, he’s host of the TED podcast Pindrop and a mentor to emerging Asian and Asian-American filmmakers through a new fellowship program called The Sauce.
This year has been a blur, but many hard truths remain crystal clear. By now, the Trump administration’s glaring and conthe U.S. hit the 9 million mark in virus cases. While President Trump has continued to shirk responsibility, scapegoat other countries, and callously state that it “is what it is”—even as the White House itself has become a hot zone, seeing two waves of infections in the span of a single month—we kTotally Under Control, director Alex Gibney, along with co-directors Suzanne Hillinger and Ophelia Harutyunyan, bring sharp-eyed clarity to t
At age 3, Spencer Bailey, writer and editor (and co-founder of The Slowdown), survived the crash-landing of United Airlines Flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa, on July 19, 1989. In the wake of the tragedy, he found himself the subject of a memorial sculptureIn Memory Of: Designing Contemporary Memorials (Phaidon), examining the power and potential of memorials designed over the past 40 years, from Maya Lin’s Vietnam VeteHere, he describes the process of working on the book, and tells us why the power of abstraction may help us all to heal You began working on this project nearly thirty years after the Flight 232 crash. What has it been like to process and
Japanese artist Makoto Azuma is known for creating poetic botanical sculptures, but the medium in which he works most inFlower Punk, an award-winning film about his work and life, now available for viewing as part of the The New Yorker Documentary series. In just under 30 minutes, director Alison Klayman captures the artist as he creates spectacular arrangements, a“Exobiotanica.” Rigging a camera and a flower bomb to a weather balloon, documenting his terrestrial creation as it soars through the s
Museums and galleries are reopening in New York, and one of the most compelling shows of the season is primed to take plen plein air. Organized by the nonprofit Art at a Time Like This, in collaboration with Save Art Space, “Ministry of Truth: 1984–2020” will reclaim a common component of the city’s visual real estate—the billboard—to display works by an international ran
In 1617, German artist Jobst Harrich completed an oil painting on a copper canvas. The work, which depicts a flaxen-hairposted Harrich’s painting to her feed and tweeted, “maybe if I take my tit out they will stop explaining my own joke back to me.” She applied this tactic to“Conversation in a Park,” depicting a gent gesturing toward a stoic lady (“you would be so much prettier if you smiled”), and a 1959 Norman Rockwell cover for the Saturday Evening Post, which portrays eleven men ganging up on a lone woman in a jury room (“thanks I’m gay now”). The thread went viral. A fMen to Avoid in Art and Life (Chronicle Books), sold out within days of its release. It features more than 90 artworks accompanied by wince-worthy c
New York–based artists and brothers Steven and William Ladd have been creating together for 20 years, using their comple“The Other Side,” on view through Oct. 17 at the Invisible Dog Art Center in Brooklyn’s Boerum Hill neighborhood, the Ladds have welcomed. Offering visceral and emotional depth to a population of society so often silenced and anonymized behind closed doors, t
Election season is upon us here in the U.S., and with all of the anxieties circulating around—pandemic-related risks, poThis is What Democracy Looked Like: A Visual History of the Printed Ballot (Princeton Architectural Press), a new book by Alicia Yin Cheng, a founding partner of the Brooklyn-based graphic design
Brooklyn-based writer and artist Edith Zimmerman served as the founding editor of The Hairpin—the former general-interest women’s website that defined a generation of online journalism, with pieces like the perenn“Women Laughing Alone With Salad”—and has gone on to contribute to outlets including The New York Times Magazine, The Cut, and the podcast This American Life. These days, you can find her work in Drawing Links, a frequently published newsletter of comics and musings. We recently polled Zimmerman about her current media diet. He
You are what you Google and “like.” This is an eerie truism of 21st-century life, where our experience of reality is larThe Social Dilemma, a new docu-drama premiering on Sept. 9 on Netflix, delves into the dangerous human impact that social networking has oCenter for Humane Technology (and our guest on Ep. 35 of At a Distance), says in the trailer: “If technology creates mass chaos, loneliness, polarization, more election hacking, [and] more i
Our summer quarantine days have far too often been spent gazing at web browser windows—far and away from vacation views,Window Swap, a mash-up of the virtual and physical. Designed as a “quarantine project” by creatives Sonali Ranjit and Vaishnav Bala
For the past five years, as one of the co-founders of the annual “JONALDDUDD” exhibition, designer Lydia Cambron has put on one of the most consistently surprising and challenging presentations of
School’s out forever—or at least for the immediate future, depending on what city you live in—and it’s certainly taking hands-on lesson plans, open-sourced and free to download, that are inspired by artists and objects from its permanent collection. “Fashioning
There’s a formula for homicide news stories: Place a TV anchor at the scene of a crime, and state that a victim was shotfatally shot in the U.S., including suicides and accidents. The sheer volume of incidents makes them easy to tune out: We don’t know
Five months on, living in a pandemic has become a new liminal normal, shifting our gaze toward the familiar sights, soun“Pandemic Objects,” an ongoing editorial project that highlights and reflects upon everyday objects (defined in the broadest sense) that hathe gaze of the drone, which has seen a surge in use worldwide in recent months, with people dispatching them in their hometowns—even to takejump rope that gives her pause as she riffles through the museum’s archives, uncovering photos, artworks, and accounts about the
The Internet Archive is one rabbit hole we’ve willingly jumped into more than a handful of times since the quarantine beWhole Earth Catalog, the 1960s counterculture print publication often referred to as “the web before the web existed”—its iconic, jam-packeElectric Whole Earth Catalog, now available on the site. Originally launched in 1998 on CD-ROM (how quaint!), the lo-fi “electric” edition offers a
Home is where the heart is—but, on the silver screen, it can be a bit forlorn. In his recently published broadside publiSad People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films, Los Angeles–based designer and art director Benjamin Critton explores the much-maligned trope of the Modernist home in popular culture, with contributing essays from writers Erik BSad People—the long-awaited follow-up to his 2010 edition, Evil People in Modernist Homes in Popular Films—and what filmic mood may strike him next for volume three of the ongoing project.