Skip to main content

African Modernism in America

February 10–May 19, 2024 | Fifth Third Gallery

African Modernism in America features more than 60 dynamic and vivid works of art created in Africa during the 1950s and ‘60s. Co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Fisk University Galleries, the exhibition explores the relationships formed between African artists and American patrons, artists, and cultural organizations amid the interlocking histories of civil rights, decolonization, and the Cold War. Many of the paintings, sculptures, and works on paper in the show were drawn from Fisk’s remarkable collection of gifts from the Harmon Foundation. Following World War II, this foundation, along with other institutions such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York, Fisk University, and other historically Black colleges and universities, supported and exhibited the work of Black artists, including the important modern African artists Ben Enwonwu (Nigeria), Ibrahim El-Salahi (Sudan), and Skunder Boghossian (Ethiopia). Showing African art in the United States rooted it in the present and encouraged American audiences to engage with African artists as contemporaries. The inventive nature of the works in this exhibition challenges the assumptions of the time about African art being isolated to a “primitive past.” Some pieces took inspiration from early Christian art, West African sculpture, and Nigerian literature, while others reflect the influences of American jazz and modern European art.


African Modernism in America is co-organized by 

Major Support for the Exhibition is Provided By

Monique Schoen Warshaw.


Additional Support Provided by

Grants from the
Marlene and Spencer Hays Foundation
Mellon Foundation
Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.


This Project Supported In Part By

National Endowment for the Arts.

Exhibition Support Generously Provided By

Ellen and George Rieveschl Endowment
Warrington Exhibition Endowment
Chellgren Family Endowment
Sallie Robinson Wadsworth Endowment for Exhibitions

Cookie Notice

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Click here for more information.
Back to top