Major art exhibition addresses representations of the global refugee crisis

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Major art exhibition addresses representations of the global refugee crisis
Dorothea Lange, I Am an American, 1942, Gelatin silver print, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, LC-USZ62-23602.

WASHINGTON, DC.- The Phillips Collection, in partnership with the New Museum, New York, opened the major exhibition The Warmth of Other Suns: Stories of Global Displacement, featuring over 75 international artists whose work poses urgent questions around the representations and perceptions of migration, both historically and within the scope of the current global refugee crisis. The exhibition is co-curated by Massimiliano Gioni, Edlis Neeson Artistic Director, New Museum, and Natalie Bell, Associate Curator, New Museum, and is on view at The Phillips Collection from June 22 to September 22, 2019.

The Warmth of Other Suns underscores how art can shed light on the complex circumstances surrounding important social and political issues of our time by bringing together works by both historical and contemporary artists and photojournalists from the United States and Mexico as well as Algeria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Egypt, Ghana, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Syria, Turkey, UK, Vietnam, and more.

“We are honored to exhibit these works that speak to both historic migrations and experiences of those currently displaced throughout the world. The Phillips has long worked to engage in conversations around these narratives through our art and outreach projects. We are proud to be at the forefront of dialogue around these important and timely issues in the U.S.,” said Dorothy Kosinski, Vradenburg Director and CEO of The Phillips Collection.

Through installations, videos, paintings, and photography—as well as documentary works and fragments of material culture—the exhibition will explore both personal and collective tales of human movement and the ways in which artists bear witness to both historical events and more subtle shifts in cultural landscapes. Overlaying historical experiences of migration to and within the United States with the current plight of refugees around the world, The Warmth of Other Suns brings together a multitude of voices and present migration as an experience shared by many.

The Warmth of Other Suns is made possible by a partnership between two institutions whose missions have always centered on how art and culture can catalyze change. The exhibition’s narrative revolves around a series of geographic and thematic lines of inquiry, shedding light on areas of enduring violence and war around the world, the crisis of migration in the Mediterranean and at the US-Mexico border, the experience and representation of refugees and refugee camps, and the plight of undocumented and “stateless” people around the world. These subjects intersect with themes of memory, placelessness, and precariousness, as well as the dream of opportunities and hope for more promising futures.

“There are over 65 million people currently displaced in the world. Through this major exhibition we are hoping to share powerful firsthand experiences and perceptions of immigration, migration, and displaced peoples, and create conversation about the global refugee crisis,” said Klaus Ottmann, Chief Curator and Deputy Director for Academic Affairs.

Borrowing a line from author Richard Wright (1908–1960), and sharing its title with Isabel Wilkerson’s award-winning book on the Great Migration, The Warmth of Other Suns is anchored by an important reference to the decades-long exodus of over six million African-Americans from the brutality and discrimination that ruled the American South. Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series (1940-41), a celebrated masterpiece of The Phillips Collection, is one of several works in the show that tells the story of this too-often marginalized history, and serves as an example of how a vast and manifold narrative can be imparted with limited means. Through works of art that speak to the persistence of refugees and migrants around the globe, The Warmth of Other Suns expands Wright’s metaphor to address a sentiment that is shared globally by those who take up perilous or unknown journeys seeking to better their conditions.

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