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Dawoud Bey: An American Project
Apr 17–Oct 3, 2021

Since the mid-1970s, Dawoud Bey (b. 1953) has worked to expand upon what photography can and should be. Insisting that it is an ethical practice requiring collaboration with his subjects, he creates poignant meditations on visibility, power, and race. Bey chronicles communities and histories that have been largely underrepresented or even unseen, and his work lends renewed urgency to an enduring conversation about what it means to represent America with a camera.

Spanning from his earliest street portraits in Harlem to his most recent series imagining an escape from slavery on the Underground Railroad, Dawoud Bey: An American Project attests to the artist’s profound engagement with the Black subject. He is deeply committed to the craft of photography, drawing on the medium's specific tools, processes, and materials to amplify the formal, aesthetic, and conceptual goals of each body of work. Bey views photography not only as a form of personal expression but as an act of political responsibility, emphasizing the necessary and ongoing work of artists and institutions to break down obstacles to access, convene communities, and open dialogues.

Dawoud Bey: An American Project is co-organized by the Whitney Museum of American Art and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The exhibition is co-curated by Elisabeth Sherman, Assistant Curator at the Whitney, and Corey Keller, Curator of Photography at SFMOMA.

Generous support for Dawoud Bey: An American Project is provided by The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Significant support is provided by the Phillip and Edith Leonian Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

In New York, the exhibition is sponsored by

Generous support is provided by Judy Hart Angelo, the John R. Eckel, Jr. Foundation, and the Whitney’s National Committee.

Major support is provided by the Philip and Janice Levin Foundation.

Significant support is provided by The Anne Levy Charitable Trust and Jean L. Karotkin and public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council. 

Additional support is provided by Susan and Arthur Fleischer, Gregory and Aline Gooding, Renee Harbers and Christopher Liddell, Marina and Andrew Lewin, Wynnell Schrenk, and Patricia Villareal and Tom Leatherbury.



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Harlem, U.S.A.

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Syracuse, NY

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Type 55 Polaroid Street Portraits

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20 × 24 Polaroids

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Class Pictures

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The Birmingham Project

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Harlem Redux

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Night Coming Tenderly, Black

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Events

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Audio Guides

Hear directly from the artist and curator on selected works from the exhibition.

This exhibition was installed on Floors 1 and 8.


Installation Photography


Shop the Exhibition

Visit the online shop to buy Whitney catalogues, exhibition-inspired gifts, and more.

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In the News

"The retrospective . . . is a testament to [Bey's] photographs’ apparent timelessness."—W Magazine

"In his street photographs and portraits Bey achieves a rare degree of connection with his subjects."—Boston Globe

"Every image is a highlight of a prolific career that examines the various processes of photography as painstakingly as it explores and exposes the human condition."—Forbes

"American photographer Dawoud Bey displays his uncanny ability to get under the skin of his subjects."—The Guardian

"There’s a warmth that’s intrinsic to Bey’s acts of portrait-making."—The New Yorker

". . . Bey understands that the collective aches we feel today are the remnants of yesterday’s agony . . ."—New York Magazine


Sunrise

Sunset

A 30-second online art project:
Ryan Kuo, Hateful Little Thing

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All visitors aged 12 and older must show proof they have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine for admission to the Whitney, in accordance with NYC requirements. Visitors aged 18 and older will also be asked to show photo ID. Face coverings are required for all visitors. Learn more about the Whitney’s safety guidelines.