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Friday, January 12, 2024

Honorary Black Art Collection to Showcase the Works of Richmond Barthé and Samella Lewis

Lewis and Richmond Barthe artwork

Nationwide — The Lewis-Barthé collection is for sale through Unity Lewis (the paternal grandson of Samella Lewis) and Art For Us By Us, an online initiative providing a platform for Black, Indigenous Artists of Color. This is the first time that these works are being shown as a collaborative collection.

“I hope that my people will look into my works and see a reflection of themselves. I have been trying to hold up a mirror to them and say, ‘Look how beautiful you are.’ It wasn’t until ‘yesterday’ that they suddenly realized they were beautiful. My dream in life was to make my people proud of me and show them how beautiful the world is.” (Lewis, Barthe: His Life in Art)

Richmond Barthé, born January 28, 1901, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, was a sculptor with works spanning over sixty years. This is the first time that these works are being shown as
a collaborative collection. Barthé’s works are a series of bronze sculptures inspired by themes of religion, sexuality, and race during the Harlem Renaissance. The art dates back to 1929, the same year that Barthé moved to New York City and began his career with a focus on spirituality, philosophy, and ephemera. His art is a response to the traumas and conflicts that the black community faced, however, his simultaneous inclusion of the LGBTQ+ perspective was a rarity in the art world in this era. His idiosyncrasy is seen through his inclusion of the black male nude in sculpture, as his artistic stylings were uncommon amidst the subject matter expressed by his contemporaries.

Samella Lewis completed the recastings of these bronze sculptures with the blessing of Richmond Barthé. Lewis, an artist herself and a pivotal figure in art history, was a close friend of Barthe. In 2009, she published “Barthé: His Life in Art” as an honorary reflection on his métier. Artist and art historian Dr. Samella Lewis is renowned for her contributions to African American art and art history.

As a collector, she amassed an impressive and diverse collection that includes African American, Asian, Caribbean, Native American, South American, and African Arts. As a social and community activist, she will serve as a reference for generations to come.

The full collection is linked at lewisbarthe.art. Studio visits for these works are exclusively available in Los Angeles and can be coordinated under the contact link on the website, or directly via email (leah@shelternyc.com).

Richmond Barthé

Richmond Barthé’s collection of bronze sculptures emulates the themes in the artworks that he was producing upon his arrival to New York City as a young artist. His contributions to Harlem Renaissance history are important to acknowledge, considering that he was one of the first
self-established African American artists in the city during this era. An iteration of this sculpture was included in Pennsylvania Academy’s 1943 annual exhibition.

Samella Lewis

Samella Lewis is deemed the “godmother of Black art,” and the themes in her works portray this. As the first African American woman to receive her doctorate in fine arts, Lewis has made a major impact on the black art community. Lewis co-founded the Museum of African American Art in Los Angeles in 1976 and established the scholarly journal International Review of African American Art in order to create a space for black artists to present their works. The rich tones and angular shapes used to make up her subjects are extremely unique, and the variety of mediums Lewis explored throughout her career contributed to the diverse collection of work she has amassed.

Leah Hornsby is a student at The New School (Eugene Lang) majoring in Visual Studies. She is a part of the Bachelor’s Master’s Program with a concentration in Curatorial Studies and the History of Design. As a gallery assistant at Shelter Gallery located in the Lower East Side of Manhattan, she is working to expand opportunities and create exposure for artists and creatives of color. Art For Us By Us provides space for non-white creators through advertisement and exhibition opportunities.

For press inquiries, contact Leah Hornsby at leah@shelternyc.com and 202-510-3446