Beauty Abounds: Three Must-See Fashion Exhibits Centering Black Imagery This Fall

By Nakia Hicks | December 6, 2022

This feature is in the October Style Issue. Click here to subscribe.

Portrait of Kelly. PHOTO BY OLIVIERO TOSCANI/COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF PATRICK KELLY, SCAN BY RANDY DODSON/© FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO PHOTO
Portrait of Kelly. PHOTO BY OLIVIERO TOSCANI/COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF PATRICK KELLY, SCAN BY RANDY DODSON/© FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO PHOTO

One could chronicle the cultural evolution of Europeans by solely referencing the art hanging on the walls of the world’s vast museums. Whether it’s Byzantine holy convictions or the Renaissance’s luminescent damsels, history has painstakingly immortalized the victor’s timelines. This narrative did not serve as fortunately for the Black image. Before the 1900s, Black subjects were seen sporadically and framed only in the context of servitude or desire.

The mere occasion of the Black visionary daring to take corrective action by amplifying Black imagery demands to be celebrated. Photographer Deana Lawson, curator Antwaun Sargent and fashion designer Patrick Kelly each spawned a respective renaissance by ushering in eras where their creativity and perspective serve as culture-shifting landscapes ripe with honor, agency and regard. Here are three exhibits led by art and fashion giants throughout the country this fall.

PEABODY ESSEX MUSEUM BOSTON

PATRICK KELLY: RUNWAY OF LOVE

Many miles and mindsets separate the Southern state of Mississippi and the cultural capital of Paris, France. However, the late and iconic designer Patrick Kelly managed a collision—and collaboration—of the two worlds through his irrefutable expressions style. Inspired by fashion magazines as a young boy, Kelly sought to create a space where Black women were no longer excluded from the consideration of beauty but embraced as the fierce and dynamic beings he knew them to be.

Following in the steps of his idol Josephine Baker, Kelly moved to Paris, where he began crafting his legacy one stitch at a time, earning a position among fashion royalty. Honored for his avant-garde designs and indelible impact, Kelly is one of the foundations on which contemporary fashion stands. Patrick Kelly: Runway of Love is on display now through Nov. 6. pem.org

Coat and dress from the fall/winter 1986-’87 collection, dresses from the fall/winter 1986-’87 and fall/ winter 1988- ’89 collections PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART
Coat and dress from the fall/winter 1986-’87 collection, dresses from the fall/winter 1986-’87 and fall/ winter 1988- ’89 collections PHOTO: COURTESY OF THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART

Kelly’s fall/winter 1988 campaign. BY OLIVIERO TOSCANI/COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF PATRICK KELLY, SCAN BY RANDY DODSON/© FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO PHOTO
Kelly’s fall/winter 1988 campaign. BY OLIVIERO TOSCANI/COURTESY OF THE ESTATE OF PATRICK KELLY, SCAN BY RANDY DODSON/© FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO PHOTO

MUSEUM OF THE AFRICAN DIASPORA SAN FRANCISCO

THE NEW BLACK VANGUARD: PHOTOGRAPHY BETWEEN ART AND FASHION

Antwaun Sargent’s The New Black Vanguard book (Aperture) is, by far, one of the most important surveys of the Black global artist in the past four decades. As editor, writer and curator, Sargent boldly presented the arrival of the nouveau artist who creates both the art and the medium in protest of gatekeeping.

Adapted for exhibition at San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora (MoAD) from Oct. 5 to March 5, 2023, Vanguard boasts 15 paradigm-shifting photographers (including Campbell Addy, Nadine Ijewere and Renell Medrano) offering delicious and divergent takes on the increasingly commonplace topics of gender, race and equality. Black perspective matters. moadsf.org

Tyler Mitchell, “Untitled (New Royals II), Miami”, (2018)
Tyler Mitchell, “Untitled (New Royals II), Miami”, (2018)

Micaiah Carter, “Adeline in Barrettes” (2018) PHOTO BY: MICAIAH CARTER
Micaiah Carter, “Adeline in Barrettes” (2018) PHOTO BY: MICAIAH CARTER

Stephen Tayo, “Lagos, Nigeria” (2019). STEPHEN TAYO.
Stephen Tayo, “Lagos, Nigeria” (2019). STEPHEN TAYO.

HIGH MUSEUM ATLANTA

DEANA LAWSON

Few artists can transport one to the space where Blackness and the divine blend. Lawson succeeds by capturing the spiritual in her subjects. Often prominent and always provocative, her photographs are impossible to ignore and stop viewing.

Her subjects range from the African diaspora and are staged in environs equally informative to the narrative as the carefully chosen subjects they house. Deana Lawson, exhibiting Oct. 7 through Feb. 19, 2023, strengthens her status as one of our time’s most impactful artists and cultural creators. high.org

Deana Lawson, “Black Gold (‘Earth turns to gold, in the hands of the wise,’ Rumi)” (2021) PHOTO BY TYLER MITCHELL
Deana Lawson, “Black Gold (‘Earth turns to gold, in the hands of the wise,’ Rumi)” (2021)


Deana Lawson, “Hair Advertisement” (2005). PHOTOS COURTESY OF APERTURE AND ANTWAUN SARGENT
Deana Lawson, “Hair Advertisement” (2005).


Deana Lawson, “Coulson Family” (2008) ALL PHOTOS BY DEANA LAWSON/COURTESY OF SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO. GALLERY, NEW YORK AND DAVID KORDANSKY GALLERY, LOS ANGELES
Deana Lawson, “Coulson Family” (2008) ALL PHOTOS BY DEANA LAWSON/COURTESY OF SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO. GALLERY, NEW YORK AND DAVID KORDANSKY GALLERY, LOS ANGELES

Photography by: COURTESY OF THE PHILADELPHIA MUSEUM OF ART; FINE ARTS MUSEUMS OF SAN FRANCISCO PHOTO; ANTWAUN SARGENT/COURTESY OF APERTURE; DEANA LAWSON/COURTESY OF SIKKEMA JENKINS & CO. GALLERY, NEW YORK AND DAVID KORDANSKY GALLERY, LOS ANGELES