As “RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture” draws to a close, we take a moment to reflect on the exhibition’s impact on the community. See the exhibition while you can; its last day is this Sunday, October 26.
It was the National Portrait Gallery's honor to be the first Smithsonian Institution museum to stage a significant exhibition with hip hop as its theme. Through visitor counts, positive comment cards, and the enthusiasm about the show witnessed daily in the galleries and in our conversations with friends and colleagues around town and around the nation, we are thrilled with the public’s positive response.
“RECOGNIZE!“ gave the National Portrait Gallery the opportunity to recognize hip hop’s important role in American life today, as it influences the fine arts as well as other elements of our visual culture from advertising to fashion to video games. It was important for us to give our visitors a sense that hip hop is more powerful and has more of an impact on our world than the media’s attention to its negative aspects might suggest.
Through hip hop happy hours, films, and family activities, to programs headlined by Nikki Giovanni and Paul “DJ Spooky” Miller, NPG attempted to maintain the spirit and enthusiasm of the exhibition through events geared to a broad public. “RECOGNIZE!” brought more diverse and younger audiences into the Gallery, many of whom visited for the first time.
Another special aspect of this exhibition was our ability to feature the work of local artists Tim “Con” Conlon, Dave “Arek” Hupp, Jefferson Pinder, and Baltimore-born Shinique Smith (right). It is sometimes difficult to give local artists the support so many of them deserve, but “RECOGNIZE!” enabled us to feature “D.C. flavor.”
As a national museum that is a destination for Americans from all parts of the country, as well as for international visitors, the Portrait Gallery was pleased with the opportunity this exhibition afforded to reflect our role as a local museum for residents of the greater Washington, D.C. metropolitan area.
Kehinde Wiley’s portraits of Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and L.L. Cool J (left) will remain at the museum on extended loan, reminding us of hip hop music’s relevance to American culture, and keeping “RECOGNIZE! Hip Hop and Contemporary Portraiture” fresh in our memories. We look forward to seeing more hip hop–related displays and activities develop Smithsonian-wide, particularly associated with the National Museum of American History’s Hip Hop Collecting Initiative.
To all who visited the exhibition or one of the programs associated with it, we hope you will come back to NPG soon and often. There will always be something for each of you at the National Portrait Gallery.
CON/Tim Conlon and Dave Hupp, 2007/Montana spray paint on Sintra panel/182.9 x 609.6 cm (72 x 240 in)/Tim Conlon and Dave Hupp
No Thief to Blame/Shinique Smith, 2007-08/Mixed media installation (fabric, cardboard, carpet, paper, ink, spray paint, used clothing, found objects, and collage)
LL Cool J/Kehinde Wiley, 2005/Oil on canvas/243.8 x 182.9 cm (96 x 72 in)/LL Cool J/© Kehinde Wiley