New Harlem Renaissance exhibit to showcase a revolutionary time in Black art

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By Dan Sears

A new exhibit featuring art from the Harlem Renaissance is coming to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2024.

“The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism,” will include the works of more than 100 artists from the early 20th century — a time early in the Great Migration, when Black life and Black art was being transformed. It was an artistic revolution that, according to the Met, upended the international understanding of modern art and modern life and changed “the very fabric of early 20th-century modern art.”

Curator Denise Murell, said the term “Harlem Renaissance” generally refers to a cohort of artists who were “committed to the idea of portraying the modern Black subject in a modern way,” reflecting the changing cultural reality and vibrancy of places like Harlem. She described the style as one that combines African aesthetics with more experimental and expressionistic forms of European modernism.

The Harlem Renaissance, she added, “is, in many ways, a retrospective term.” During the moment itself, it was referred to as the “New Negro Movement” — a term derived from the title of a book published in 1925 by author Alain Locke, a professor at Howard University.

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The Harlem Renaissance wasn’t confined to Harlem, however. While a core group of artists and literary figures did emerge from New York City, Murell said it was “always a nationwide movement.” More than a specific geographic location, it was an idea or philosophy that gathered together artists in places like Philadelphia, Chicago and Oakland.

In addition, many artists of the Harlem Renaissance spent time abroad, “primarily in France, the U.K., northern Europe and elsewhere,” Murell said. That expatriation meant the movement had an international element to it as well; one that Murell said the Met worked to represent in the exhibition.

Featured artists of the exhibition, Murell said, are “primarily but not exclusively African American” and include Charles Alston, Meta Warrick Fuller, Archibald Motley, Jr., Augusta Savage and Laura Wheeler Waring.

Many of the works on view come from the collections of Historically Black Colleges and Universities such as Howard and Fisk.

While the exhibit opens during Black History Month, it was not an intentional move on the part of the museum. Nevertheless, Murell said she hoped that the exhibit would contribute to “the significance of that month.” She added that the exhibit will enjoy a longer run than what is typical for the museum.

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“The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism” opens on February 25, 2024 and runs through July 28, 2024. Tickets and information are available at

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