The Exhibitions

In Spring 2024, The Chrysler Museum of Art and Hampton University Museum will open two joint exhibitions curated by Tashae Smith, the Andrew W. Mellon curatorial fellow. Both exhibitions will feature art from Hampton University Museum’s Harmon Foundation Modern African Art collection and the Chrysler Museum of Art’s African Art collection.

Sankofa: Constructing Modern African Art

Sankofa: Constructing Modern African Art features over 40 artworks by 30 artists from 11 countries, including Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, and the United States.

The art within this exhibition captures how Modern African artists utilized the past (i.e., traditional values and cultural heritage of the pre-colonial era) to construct their versions of Modern African art. The concept of returning to the past was fundamental to the construction of Modern African art undertaken by emerging African artists and European expatriates of the early to mid-1900s. Although there were numerous beliefs on what a new African art aesthetic should do, see, and feel like, a common thread was a return to the sources, which was the act of reclaiming and rehabilitating African cultures desecrated by colonization. Artists reclaimed the past for the future of African art by utilizing indigenous art forms to construct art for the age of African independence and globalization. They also presented the unique beauty of the African landscape and its numerous ethnic cultures, birthing new artistic identities formed by deeper connections to one’s own or foreign cultural heritage.

This exhibition will open at Hampton University Museum summer of 2024. It features paintings, prints, and sculptures from artists such as Jimo Bola Akolo, Alexander “Skunder” Boghossian, John Biggers, Rene Bokoko, Miranda Olayinka Burney-Nicol, Peter Clarke, Afi Ekong, Ben Enwonwu, Lamidi Fakeye, Vincent Kofi, Amon Kotei, Elimo Njau, Rufus Ogundele, Uche Okeke, Bruce Onobrakpeya, Gerard Sekoto, and Clara Etso Ugbodaga-Ngu.

I am Copying Nobody: The Art and Political Cartoons of Akinola Lasekan

This exhibition showcases more than 50 drawings, paintings, and political cartoons created by Akinola Lasekan, a pioneer of Modern art and political cartoons in Nigeria.  

I Am Copying Nobody: The Art and Political Cartoons of Akinola Lasekan features Lasekan’s artworks, which capture Nigeria’s landscape, people, culture, and political climate in the 1940s and 50s. Lasekan’s thirty-eight-year art career brimmed with beauty, innovation, and advocacy. He utilized easel painting to capture the beauty and humanity of Nigeria and its people while simultaneously attacking the British colonial system with nationalistic political cartoons. His mastery and use of these Western art forms contradicted the narrative of European superiority and African inferiority.

This exhibition will open at the Chrysler Museum of Art on April 13, 2024. It features drawings and paintings Lasekan sent to the Harmon Foundation in 1947 and 1961.