Detroit Institute of Arts showcases contemporary African American art in “30 Americans” exhibition

Detroit Institute of Arts showcases contemporary African American art in “30 Americans” exhibition

Artists explore racial, gender, political and historical identity in contemporary culture


August 12, 2015 (Detroit)—The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) presents “30 Americans,” a dynamic exhibition of contemporary art by African American artists, on view Oct. 18, 2015–Jan. 18, 2016. “30 Americans” includes 55 paintings, sculptures, installations, photographs and videos by many of the most important African American artists who rose to prominence during recent decades by exploring racial, gender, political and historical identity in contemporary culture. This is a ticketed exhibition.


"This inspiring exhibition is another wonderful example of our continuing emphasis at the DIA to present the very best to our museum visitors,” said Eugene A. Gargaro, DIA chairman of the board. ’30 Americans’ is another ‘must see’ opportunity at our great museum!"


Among the renowned artists included are Barkley Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall, Carrie Mae Weems, Lorna Simpson and the late Jean-Michel Basquiat and Robert Colescott. Their influence on a younger generation can be seen in the works of artists such as Kehinde Wiley, Nick Cave, Mickalene Thomas and Kara Walker.


““30 Americans” powerfully demonstrates contemporary African American artists’ ongoing interests in emphasizing the complexities of  identity and developing a range of artistic approaches to portray or reference its distinctions and similarities,” said Valerie J. Mercer, DIA curator and department head, General Motors Center for African American Art. “ This is the first time the innovative work of most of the artists represented will be on view at the DIA, as well as in Detroit. We’re honored to have the opportunity to share with our audience the creative brilliance of the contemporary African American artists whose art is included in the prestigious Rubell Family Collection.”


The exhibition is organized around several artistic approaches used by the artists to explore identity: defying Western art traditions; portraying black subjects as real people as opposed to types; sampling multiple sources of inspiration, from historical material to found objects; freestyling by adopting improvisational and expressionistic styles to demonstrate creative and technical virtuosity; signifying through the use of symbols, materials and images that imply or trigger associations about gender, race, religion, class and sexuality; transforming the body’s appearance to examine the relationship between societal assumptions and identity; and confronting American history regarding race, racism and power in the United States.


This exhibition is drawn from the acclaimed Rubell Family Collection, Miami. In describing the origins and development of the exhibition, Don and Mera Rubell state: “As the show evolved, we decided to call it 30 Americans. ‘Americans,’ rather than ‘African Americans’ or ‘Black Americans,’ because nationality is a statement of fact, while racial identity is a question each artist answers in his or her own way, or not at all. And the number 30 because we acknowledge…that this show does not include everyone who could be in it.”


This exhibition has been organized by the Rubell Family Collection, Miami. Support for the exhibition has been provided by the Ford Foundation and the Friends of African and African American Art. Additional support has been provided by DTE Energy, GalaxE Solutions, MGM Grand Detroit, Dickinson Wright, Richard and Jane Manoogian Foundation, Suzanne Shank, Cheryl & Reuben Munday, Skillman Foundation, Lorna Thomas, M.D., P.C., and other generous supporters.


Prices are: $7 for ages 6–17, and $5 for residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents who are ages 6–17. The adult ticket prices were correct: Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county adult resident tickets are $10, a $4 discount from non-resident tickets, which are $14. and free for DIA members.


Museum Hours and Admission

9 a.m.–4 p.m. Tuesdays–Thursdays, 9 a.m.–10 p.m. Fridays, and 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. General admission (excludes ticketed exhibitions) is free for Wayne, Oakland and Macomb county residents and DIA members. For all others, 12.50 for adults, $8 for seniors ages 62+, $6 for ages 6–17. For membership information, call 313-833-7971.


Ed. Notes:  

Save the Date: A media preview will be held Oct. 14

Image Caption: “Equestrian Portrait of the Count Duke Olivares,” Kehinde Wiley, 2005, oil on canvas. Courtesy of Rubell Family Collection, Miami

Online Media Kit: Includes high-res images:




The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA), one of the premier art museums in the United States, is home to more than 60,000 works that comprise a multicultural survey of human creativity from ancient times through the 21st century. From the first Van Gogh painting to enter a U.S. museum (Self-Portrait, 1887), to Diego Rivera's world-renowned Detroit Industry murals (1932–33), the DIA’s collection is known for its quality, range and depth. The DIA’s mission is to create opportunities for all visitors to find personal meaning in art.


Programs are made possible with support from residents of Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

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