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Soul of a Nation premieres at Tate Modern

13th July 2017

Soul of a Nation is showcasing some of the most important works of art during the civil rights movement. 

Paintings of vital figures such as Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Angela Davis and Jack Johnson are honoured in the display, highlighting landmark creations that had an enormous impact on American art.

It started on July 12th and runs until October 22nd, with Tate describing the exhibition as a chance to see “era-defining” works of art. 

Speaking to the BBC, Curator Mark Godfrey said: “We've done shows about American art for decades - it was a question of why hadn't we done one on African-American art?

“And there was every reason to do it as these are great artists making important work. We felt it was important to tell the story of this 20-year period when they were asking questions about the black aesthetic and what it means.”

Mr Godfrey described the exhibition as a cohesive set of questions and a mixed set of answers painted at a critical time in American history.

Wandsworth Jarrell, creator of the Revolutionary work of art, created AfriCobra (African Commune of Bad Relevant Artists) in the 1960s. 

The group featured Jeff Donaldson, Joe Jarrell, Jones-Hogu, Nelson Stevens and Gerald Williams, who were the only group to create a manifesto in the era. 

Frank Bowling is another artist whose designs will be showcased in the display. Mr Bowling was born in British Guyana and moved from London to New York, where he became a driving force in the civil rights movement. 

He argued that black art could be abstract and exist without political undertones, which helped inspire a generation of future artists. His work of art Middle Passage will be shown outside of the US for the first time. 

Mr Godfrey went on to say that there are over 150 pieces by more than 60 artists, with many of these being displayed in Britain for the first time ever. 

However, some of the works of art were impossible to find. In these instances, a blank space will be used to represent the pieces. 

Betye Saar is another one of the artists featured in the display, with her designs providing a look back at the black feminist movement and its effects over the last 20 years.

Each room at the museum is based on individual artistic movements and the cities from which they originated, including Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. 

Listening sessions exploring the connection between American music and the artists featured in the exhibition are scheduled for 11th September, 25th September and 9th October. These events will include discussions with modern performers and curators, along with a private viewing of the display.

A ticket to Soul of a Nation is £16.50 and it is completely free for members of Tate Modern. 

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