Sunday, February 10, 2013

'The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, Where Art and History Intersect'

Bernard and Shirley Kinsey
To honor the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the Museum of the African Diaspora and Wells Fargo are hosting the "The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, Where Art and History Intersect."

Throughout their 43-years of marriage, Bernard and Shirley Kinsey have explored and celebrated their African American heritage by collecting items of historical and cultural significance.

Romare Bearden. Falling Star. 1979

Kinsey a Los Angeles philanthropist and entrepreneur and his wife Shirley are famously known for espousing two life principles, “To whom much is given much is required" and live “A life of no regrets." They have collected pieces from those whose works resonate with their belief that education was the key to wisdom and upward mobility.

Floridians by birth and graduates of Florida A&M University, they began collecting as a way to remember their travels, but the collection soon became a repository for African American intellectual, historical and artistic works.

Elizabeth Catlett. Jackie. 1974.

The Kinsey collection is now one of the largest private collections of African American art, with artifacts, documents and artwork spanning 400 years of history.

A history of the African American in art is charted through works by numerous celebrated artists, including Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, Aaron Douglas, Sam Gilliam, Palmer Hayden, Richard Hunt, Lois Mailou Jones, Artis Lane, Richard Mayhew, James Porter and Henry O. Tanner.

Although the exhibit is rich in African-American painting and sculpture, the documents are what provide the core and the emotional charge of the show. The Kinsey collection highlights objects, letters and documents offering an unflinching look at slavery from the perspective of Africans who survived it, Union soldiers who fought it and slave owners who perpetuated it.

On display is the first document collected by Bernard Kinsey. Dated 1832, it was a bill of sale for an 18-year old male, being sold along with cattle, horses and farm implements. 

The collection contains a rare 1789 copy of the first, first-person narrative of the slave trade, written by Olaudah Equiano. Enslaved as a child, he later was able to buy his freedom and worked for the abolition of slavery.

Among the original documents is a 1798 proclamation, declaring that "any person may kill these escaped brothers." If they were caught, it was their death warrant.

Jonathan Green. Field Hands. 1988

In 1854, an owner sent his 17-year old slave to be sold so he could buy some horses. He was so upset that he couldn't tell her about the letter she was carrying. He was upset; one can only image how she felt to be sold away from her family.

A first edition of the autobiography of Frederick Douglas is on display and even more thrillingly, the pamphlet of his famous 1852 speech.

On July 5, 1852, the Ladies' Anti-Slavery Society of Rochester, New York, invited Douglass to be the keynote speaker for their Independence Day celebration.

In this fiery speech, Douglass powerfully asks the crowd if it was their intention to mock him by inviting him to speak on the Fourth of July. He notes in the seventh paragraph, "The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity, and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me."

On the wall is the 1863 edition Mercury News, with a page open to the list of auctions. One of the slaves for sale was a 2-year old named Jassy.

Through May 13, 2013

No comments: