Happy Birthday, Romare Bearden!: The Centennial Begins

Frank Stewart
Romare Bearden, 1979
© Frank Stewart
Courtesy the artist

September 2, 2011, is the 100th Anniversary of Romare Bearden’s birth. Wishing the late icon a “Happy Birthday” is not nearly enough to acknowledge the expansive influence Bearden had during his lifetime and continues to exert in the world. Bearden was instrumental in the founding of The Studio Museum in Harlem; given that fact, coupled with the profound role he played in the lives and work of so many of our artists, friends and supporters, it is fair to say that the Museum would not be what it is today without this incredible man.

We hope that you will take a moment today to revisit or learn anew about this iconic artist. The best way, of course, is by experiencing his work in person: check out Conjur Woman and Spring Way (both 1964) on view now in Spiral: Perspectives on an African-American Art Collective, or visit one of our partner institutions in the tri-state area who have Beardens on view in tribute, including the Brooklyn Museum, Hofstra University Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Even more museums are slated to participate throughout the coming centennial year!

With our rich history as well as our commitment to the contemporary, the Studio Museum is in the perfect position to celebrate the life and work of Romare Bearden while exploring his incredible influence on so many artists working today, right here in Harlem and around the world. Out of this wonderful situation grew the idea for our fall exhibition, The Bearden Project, opening November 10. The Bearden Project invites a broad spectrum of artists to create new works of art inspired, influenced, instigated, or informed by Bearden’s life, work, and legacy. We can’t wait to share what is sure to be an unprecedented outpouring of creativity and honor. But this seems like a perfect opportunity to share the list-in-formation of 45 artists—many alumni of the Museum’s foundational Artist-in-Residence program—who have generously agreed to contribute work to The Bearden Project:

Derrick Adams, Njideka Akunyili, Mark Bradford, Sanford Biggers, Leonardo Drew, David Driskell, Charles Gaines, Todd Gray, Lyle Ashton Harris, Maren Hassinger, Leslie Hewitt, Wayne Hodge, Rashid Johnson, Vincent Johnson, Simone Leigh, Glenn Ligon, Nzuji De Magalhaes, Kerry James Marshall, Dave McKenzie, Rodney McMillian, Julie Mehretu, Wardell Milan, Nicole Miller, Meleko Mokgosi, Dominique Moody, Wangechi Mutu, Kori Newkirk, John Outterbridge, Kamau Amu Patton, William Pope L., Robert Pruitt, Michael Queenland, Faith Ringgold, Nadine Robinson, Alison Saar, Paul Mpagi Sepuya, Xaviera Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Shinique Smith, Hank Willis Thomas, William Villalongo, Stacy Lynn Waddell, Nari Ward, Saya Woolfalk and Brenna Youngblood.

I know all of these artists join the staff, board, members and friends of the Studio Museum in saluting Romare Bearden on this significant day, and thanking all those who work so hard to preserve and promote the legacy of one of the twentieth century’s greatest artists, particularly the amazing team at the Romare Bearden Foundation. The foundation has put together a comprehensive website where you can learn about the many ways our partners and colleagues are celebrating over the next year; make sure to check out beardencentennial.org to map out your own tribute.