Exhibition Press Kit

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC) opens its latest exhibition, “Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience.,” in its newly redesigned Visual Art and the American Experience gallery Sept. 10. The Black Lives Matter movement, violence against African Americans and the role of art in depicting social protest movements are front and center in the exhibition. It prominently features a portrait of Breonna Taylor in a blue flowing gown, painted by renowned artist Amy Sherald, who painted the official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama. The painting of Taylor, which first appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair’s September 2020 issue, is buttressed by 27 newly exhibited images and artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat, Sheila Pree Bright, Bisa Butler, Shaun Leonardo, David Hammons and many more.

“Visual artists have long evoked questions of beauty and history, and the Black painters, sculptors, photographers, and textile artists featured in this show exemplify the tradition of resilience in times of conflict and the ritual and even defiant pleasures of creation,” said Kevin Young, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. “The show continues to tell the story of the centrality of the Black experience found in the entire Museum, while also connecting to our current moment, filled with the twin pandemics of Covid-19 and racism and an ongoing renaissance of Black art and artistry.”

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Virtual experience of “Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience.” in the newly redesigned Visual Art and the American Experience gallery

The exhibition documents the struggles Black Americans have faced in their pursuit of the fundamental rights and freedoms promised in the Constitution. Visitors can view the nation’s complex history of race and class through the artwork and images depicting a broad African American response to racism, systems of oppression and the ongoing reckoning in America.

“We are in a renaissance of Black culture and art, and much of the art is commenting on this moment,” Young said.

“The exhibition seeks to forge connections between the Black Lives Matter protests, racial violence, grief and mourning, hope and change,” said Tuliza Fleming, NMAAHC’s chief curator of visual arts and lead curator of the “Reckoning” exhibition “Additionally, it will reveal that many African American artists feel they have more at stake, beyond being included in the canon of American art.”

Augmented-Reality Experience  

  • Visitors can interact with several select pieces of art by using their mobile devices and learn how the artwork connects with other objects and themes in the museum. The augmented-reality experience incorporates video and other pop-up displays to create an immersive, digital experience. The exhibition opens just two weeks before the museum’s fifth anniversary and highlights its ongoing mission to tell the stories of American history through the African American lens. 

“Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience.” is located on the fourth floor of the museum. The museum requires timed-entry passes to enter the museum and the gallery. Visit the museum’s website for information about featured artwork and more at www.NMAAHC.si.edu/Reckoning. The public can join the online conversation using #NMAAHCReckoning on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook. 

About the National Museum of African American History and Culture  
Since opening Sept. 24, 2016, the National Museum of African American History and Culture has welcomed more than 7 million visitors. Occupying a prominent location next to the Washington Monument on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., the nearly 400,000-square-foot museum is the nation’s largest and most comprehensive cultural destination devoted exclusively to exploring, documenting and showcasing the African American story and its impact on American and world history. For more information about the museum, visit nmaahc.si.edu, follow @NMAAHC on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, or call Smithsonian information at (202) 633-1000. 

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Media Contacts

Jason Spear 202-445-7456; spearj@si.edu
Shrita Hernandez 202-256-7023; hernandezs@si.edu

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