Last weekend I was fortunate to attend the Opening Gala Reception for the Harlem Fine Arts Show (HFAS) benefiting the Ralph Lauren Center for Cancer Care and Prevention here in Harlem. The event was a brilliant display of one of the largest collections of African American art in the nation, featuring artists from across the country and around the globe, both established and emerging. The HFAS was founded upon the tradition of the very popular Black Fine Arts Show, held for 14 years at New York’s Puck Building, which garnered art aficionados in droves. Journalist and event attendee Vanessa Taylor said “What a wonderful event and African American artists, when the Puck closed, I was heartbroken. There was a void….but Black art is back!”
This year’s Harlem Fine Arts Show built on that tradition by offering a spectacular representation of African American beauty, art and culture.
This year’s events included a fine arts exhibition, a cocktail reception to benefit The Brotherhood/Sister Sol, several lectures, an ecumenical service and afternoon tea hosted by the NAACP of New York. The events were all held at the Riverside Church of New York City, a beacon in the Harlem community and institution of social activism and civil discourse throughout its history.
The reception was sponsored by Amtrak, Bacardi and Grey Goose. Guests were able to sip signature drinks like the “Harlem Fizz” while mingling with other art-lovers and appreciating the artistry. The event featured more than 100 artists and galleries showcasing their works (paintings, photograph, and sculpture). Artist Woodrow Nash’s work features stunning sculptures and busts. Of his work he says, “what I try to convey is regality and nobility. It is portrayed in the posture, attitude and stance.” Artist Sterling Brown, best known for his work Spiritual Nap stated, “I think that these shows are important because they keep African Americans in touch with their ancestry and heritage. It keeps us aware of the aesthetics.” He continued, “most people want art, but it’s so expensive.” Indeed, State Senator Bill Perkins was in attendance with only one message in tow: “Buy the art!” Artist Alonzo Adams had valuable advice to share “Art is the only thing that enriches your life, and enriches your wallet. It’s an investment.”
Spiritual Nap by Sterling Brown
Susan Taylor, Editor in Chief Emeritus of Essence magazine was the lovely hostess for the evening. Listed as one of the most beautiful Black women in history, and well-known within the publishing world for her leadership of Essence magazine, Susan Taylor is a living legend. She set the standard of beauty, finesse and fashion for generations of Black women. She offered her insight to me on her highlight of the show. “For me the highlight is the scale. There are so few shows that invite black artists. It is an opportunity to share culture with the younger generation. And see the magnificence of Blackness.” “Look at us. Look at our representation. It is beautiful. If you don’t see yourself, you don’t know who you are,” she continued. DeMarco Morgan of WNBC-TV of New York was co-host for the evening’s festivities. Sheila Banks, Public Relations agent and marketer for the event said of her involvement “I love helping people make their dreams come true. My highlight was seeing gorgeous art and beautiful people. The satisfaction is gratifying. Why else would we be here?” At the end of the evening a representative from Congressman Charles B. Rangel’s office announced a congressional record for the fine art show and its contribution to the global fine art landscape stating “the greatest moment of Afro-American history was the discovery of afro-centric art.”
It definitely was an occasion for the connoisseurs of the finer things in life to put on their tailored suits, or little black dress, and enjoy the burgeoning, talent, culture and art that only Harlem can offer.
Photo Courtesy of: Jasmine Ortiz www.jasminortiz.com
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