Getty Launches African American Art History Initiative, Acquires Betye Saar Archive

Betye Saar in her Los Angeles studio, 2015. Photo: Ashley Walker. Courtesy of the artist and Roberts Projects, Los Angeles 
African-American art history has been a chronically underfunded field. That may be changing dramatically. The Getty Research Institute has just announced the acquisition of Betye Saar's archive, spanning 1926 to the present. (As the artist was born in 1926, that's as comprehensive as it gets.) This launches a new, Getty-sponsored African American Art History Initiative. With Kellie Jones of Columbia University as senior consultant, the initiative will entail collaborations between the GRI and the California African American Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem, Art + Practice, Spelman College (Atlanta), and other historically black colleges and universities. The Getty Museum will also participate by placing new emphasis on African-American photographers. Works by Gordon Parks and Anthony Barboza were acquired in 2015.
 Pages of Betye Saar’s exhibition ledger from 1973. Getty Research Institute


As to the GRI, it already holds some papers of Ed Bereal, Mark Bradford, Melvin Edwards, Adrian Piper, Lorna Simpson, and Kara Walker. The new initiative starts with a $5 million endowment, indicating a long-term commitment, and the Getty promises further fund-raising. Plans call for a full-time bibliographer and two research fellowships each year.

Incidentally, the Getty press release mentions that the LACMA-organized Betye Saar retrospective will be traveling to New York—to the prestigious if unlikely venue of the Morgan Library & Museum.
Betye Saar, The Liberation of Aunt Jemima, 1972. Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive

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