16 Museums & Galleries Showcasing Black Artists in Greater Philadelphia
Where to see brilliant works of art by Black artists...
For more than a century, Philadelphia has been home to prominent Black artists who received academic training and created visual works of all media here, contributing to the artistic and intellectual life of the city.
Establishments like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts , and art schools like the Moore College of Art and Design and the Tyler School of Art at Temple University, have provided important channels for the career development of Black artists in Philadelphia.
Today, visitors can find a phenomenal selection of art by Black artists within permanent collections, special exhibitions and exciting shows at museums and galleries around the city. Media of all sorts from local, national and international artists can be viewed at venues throughout Philadelphia, including the Barnes Foundation , Cherry Street Pier , October Gallery and even the murals that adorn many public spaces throughout the city.
Here’s a look at where you can view art by Black artists in Greater Philadelphia.
During rotating special exhibitions , The African American Museum in Philadelphia has displayed paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, sculptures and mixed-media works that chronicle and dramatically tell the story of the African diaspora. Check the museum’s official site to see what’s currently on view . In recent years, the attraction has also launched several virtual exhibitions, including Rendering Justice , where works by nine artists created in collaboration with Mural Arts Philadelphia’s Reimagining Reentry program examine the criminal justice system and supports formerly incarcerated artists.
Albert Barnes’ interest in African art dates back to the early 1920s, when he acquired traditional African masks, sculptures and domestic items from Mali, Côte d’Ivoire, Gabon and the Congo. Visitors can see these works , which he described as “the purest expression of the three-dimensional form,” masterfully displayed among impressionist works at the museum that bears his name on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.
Since 1972, the Brandywine Workshop has been a national force in the development and understanding of American printmaking as a fine art form. The organization has sponsored the residencies of hundreds of domestic and international artists, in addition to ethnically diverse artists from around the region. More than 1,400 works live in the permanent collection.
Visitors to this hip multi-use public space on the Delaware River waterfront can explore and shop at the galleries and studios artfully set up in shipping containers on site. Guests can find artists of color working on, among other things, African American dolls (Acori Honzo), comic book art (Thomcat23) and more. Read more about Cherry Street Pier’s artists-in-residence program here .
Historic, residential Germantown is home to the comfortable dwelling of Vashti DuBois, who built her lived-in “memoir museum” that’s inspired by and dedicated to Black women and girls. The space’s changing displays contain objects and art from Black women, and the museum explores themes like trauma, self care, safe spaces and more. Interested readers can also learn more about the museum in Episode 1 of Love + Grit , Visit Philadelphia’s podcast.
Known as the “West Philly Wyeths,” the artistic Tiberino family allows visitors to stroll through their artful residences in Philly’s Powelton Village neighborhood. After patriarchs Joseph and Ellen Powell passed, their adult children continued their traditions, working in ceramics, stained glass, murals and figures, and holding alfresco Sunday art circles, where painters bring their easels, drummers bring their instruments and poets bring their musings.
Focusing on folk art, Indigo Arts Gallery — founded in 1986 and currently located in the Crane Arts Building — shows both contemporary and traditional art from Africa, as well as other regions around the world. Gallery co-founder Anthony Fisher grew up in Africa and studied African art and history at Yale University. Interested visitors should make an appointment with the Indigo team.
Rich collections of paintings and sculpture by new and established artists draw observers and collectors to this boutique gallery , located just north of city limits and owned by Adrian Moody and Robyn Jones.
Philly’s “City of Murals” nickname is well-earned , with a number of these colorful/moving works paying tribute to the Black experience and showcasing elements of Black culture, members of the community, well-known public figures and more. Marcus Akinlana, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, Willis Nomo Humphrey and Ernel Martinez are just some of the Black artists behind Mural Arts Philadelphia’s several-thousands-strong works.
“African American art is good for everyone” is the motto of this longstanding repository of mostly contemporary Black art in Philly’s Germantown neighborhood. Note that gallery visits are by appointment only.
The Penn Museum boasts an extensive collection of African art and artifacts, including masks, sculptures, instruments, embroidered garments and jewelry. Its Africa Galleries , renovated in 2019, trace the paths of several key objects — from their African makers to the museum — to outline artifacts’ origins and how they arrived in Philadelphia. Among the objects featured are stunning bronze pieces originally from the Benin Palace in modern-day Nigeria. These were taken from the palace by soldiers during the British invasion of 1897 and eventually sold on the art market. The display is transparent about the legacy of colonialism that the museum, along with many other museums, faces.
At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts , the nation’s first fine arts school and museum and one of the first in the world to exhibit works by an African American artist, major works by Kehinde Wiley (the master behind the 2018 National Portrait Gallery painting of Barack Obama), Nick Cave, Whitfield Lovell, Mickalene Thomas, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin and others live in the museum’s collections.
Prominent African American architect Julian Abele is credited as one of the architects of the Philadelphia Museum of Art , and visitors can see works by other Black artists inside the building as well. The museum displays a portion of its permanent collections, which include paintings, photographs and furniture made by Black artists from the early 1800s to the present.
The elder brother of Run D.M.C.’s Reverend Run and Russell Simmons established an outpost of his famed Brooklyn art gallery and community space in Philadelphia’s Logan neighborhood in 2016. Opening with the exhibition Power, Protest, and Resistance: The Art of Revolution, the space continues to hosts shows and programs that give opportunities to artists, students, curators and the community.
In a part of Philadelphia with relatively few art galleries, Urban Art Gallery serves as a creative oasis. Owned by Kalphonse Morris, the space welcomes emerging artists and, in the past, has also offered live music, kid-friendly programming and more.
Located in historic Chestnut Hill, Woodmere Art Museum celebrates the work of Black Philadelphia artists. The museum owns and regularly displays creations by the city’s great talents, including Moe Brooker, Syd Carpenter, Martina Johnson-Allen, Jerry Pinkney and Ron Tarver.
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