Detroit Institute of Arts receives gift of important work by artist Titus Kaphar

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Detroit Institute of Arts receives gift of important work by artist Titus Kaphar
Titus Kaphar, Nip Tuck (Portrait of Lillian Dandridge), 2009, oil on crumpled canvas. Detroit Institute of Arts.

DETROIT, MICH.- Expanding the Detroit Institute of Arts’ collection of African American art, museum supporters Nancy and Sean Cotton have donated Nip Tuck (Portrait of Lillian Dandridge), a 2009 painting by award-winning artist Titus Kaphar, born in Kalamazoo, Mich. in 1976. The Cottons have loaned an additional nine works of art that will be on display beginning May 15, 2021.

"It's extremely generous of collectors Nancy and Sean Cotton to gift the DIA this powerful painting that uncovers hidden truths in American history,” said Valerie Mercer, curator and head of the DIA’s Center for African American Art. “In that respect, it, along with nine loaned contemporary artworks by various Black artists represented in the Cotton's outstanding collection, refers to the theme of Black Lives Matter directly and indirectly by emphasizing aspects of Black humanity through the examination of numerous issues, such as the complexities of historical narratives, cultures, identities, myths, genders, fears, humor, imagination, influences, communities, families and more. We're really honored to have Kaphar’s art included in the museum's collection and to share the Cotton's collection with the DIA's communities."

Kaphar received his B.F.A. in 2001 from San Jose State University, San Jose, CA and his M.F.A. from Yale University, New Haven, CT in 2006. His bold ideas and innovative paintings, sculptures, and installations have earned him numerous accolades and awards, including a 2020 Rappaport Prize from the deCordova Sculpture Park and Museum in Lincoln, Mass., a 2018 MacArthur fellowship, a 2018 Art for Justice grant, a 2016 Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist grant, and a 2015 Creative Capital Grant. In 2009, he became the first recipient of the Gwendolyn Knight and Jacob Lawrence Fellowship.

The DIA has been at the forefront of collecting and presenting world class art from artists of the African Diaspora in the Americas, and it was the first museum in the U.S. to dedicate a curatorial department and galleries to African American art. With a collection of over 600 artworks created from the mid-19th century to today, the DIA’s Center for African American Art was the inspiration for Nancy and Sean Cotton to collect works of art produced by artists of color. The Cottons, residents of Grosse Pointe Farms, believe strongly in the mission of the DIA and its commitment to the residents of Oakland, Macomb, and Wayne counties.

“It was the community outreach programs and the free field trips to the 90,000 school children who visit the collections of the DIA every year that touched us, serving as one of those critical resources between the art world and today’s educational outcomes,” said the Cottons. “Nip Tuck is a gift to the students of Southeast Michigan whom we hope to inspire to be America’s next generation of artists, art lovers, and collectors.”

Nip Tuck will be displayed alongside eight works on loan from the Nancy and Sean Cotton Collection, all by artists from the African diaspora. Highlights include Color Men (2015) by Rashid Johnson, Princess (2017) by Tschabalala Self, and two additional works by Kaphar: Untitled (From a Tropical Space) (2020) and Page 4 of Jefferson’s “Farm Book”, January 1774, Goliath, Hercules, Jupiter, Gill, Fanny, Ned, Sucky, Frankey, Gill, Nell, Bella, Charles, Jenny, Betty, June, Toby, Duna (Sic), Cate, Hannah, Rachael, George, Ursula, George, Bagwell, Archy, Frank, Bett, Scilla, ?, (2014). Most of the works will be on display in the “Temporary Contemporary” galleries while the museum’s contemporary galleries are currently deinstalled to host the Detroit Style exhibition. “Temporary Contemporary” is located on the second floor in the South Wing. A work by Bill Traylor, Red Man on Blue Horse with Dog (1938–1942), will be installed in the African American galleries.

In addition to the gift and loans, the Nancy and Sean Cotton Collection has also loaned 11 paintings that comprise American Spectacle: Selections from the Nancy and Sean Cotton Collection of American Art, part of the DIA’s statewide exhibition program. The exhibition is one in a series of American art exhibitions created through a multi-year, multi-institutional partnership formed by the Detroit Institute of Arts as part of the Art Bridges Initiative. The exhibition will be on display at the Lorenzo Cultural Center at the Macomb Community College Center Campus from June 11– September 11, 2021. In addition, 40 works from the Cotton’s collection comprise a second statewide exhibition, Visions of American Life: Selections from the Nancy and Sean Cotton Collection of American Art.

“The generosity of the Cottons has given the DIA new avenues to connect not only with our regional community, but to share artwork throughout the state of Michigan,” said Salvador Salort-Pons, DIA Director. “The extraordinary gift of this work by Titus Kaphar will resonate deeply with our visitors and strengthen our unique African American collection as we celebrate nationally and internationally the amazing creativity of artists from Michigan.”

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