An Incomplete History of Protest

Solo en Inglès

“I make revolutionary art to propel history forward. I’m a visual artist.”
—Dread Scott

Hear directly from artists including Dread Scott, and Senga Nengudi as they discuss their work in An Incomplete History of Protest: Selections from the Whitney’s Collection, 1940–2017. Listen to additional commentary from curators on selected highlights from the exhibition.

Document with black text on white paper.

The Black Emergency Cultural Coalition and Black Artist’s Correspondence, 1969-1971. Eight sheets. Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; Frances Mulhall Achilles Library and Archives

Rujeko Hockley: I'm Rujeko Hockley, Assistant Curator at the Whitney Museum.

These documents are from the Whitney Museum’s collection, archives, and they relate to a series of protests that an organization called the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition staged at and around the Whitney in the years 1969 to 1971.

There was an exhibition in 1971 staged at the Whitney called Contemporary Black Artists in America, which included, I believe, seventy-eight invited artists and was the culmination of a long series of negotiations with the BECC and the Whitney around representation of African American artists and culture in the context of an American art museum, and the lack of representation prior.

The BECC wanted an exhibition, but they wanted that exhibition to be either co-curated or guest curated by somebody who had expertise in African American art and artists, and specifically by a Black person, a Black curator. And the Whitney, not having that such person on staff, but also, for whatever series of reasons, this was a real point of contention for the Whitney, in a real place where they were not able to find resolution, which in the end resulted in maybe twenty-something out of the seventy-eight artists boycotting the show and withdrawing their work and kind of publicly denouncing both the exhibition and the institution.

Other demands that were made, which were met, were that there be kind of a program of solo exhibitions by Black artists at the Whitney and that actually did happen.

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