Pioneering Black portraitist Barkley L. Hendricks is first artist of color to get solo show at Frick

A dozen years ago, Barkley L. Hendricks, the pioneering portrait artist known for vivid, stylish paintings of Black men and women, stood outside the Frick Collection in Manhattan, known for its works by European Old Masters. He was explaining his love for Rembrandt.

“It’s like good music,” the artist said that day. “You can be replenished every time you hear it.”

By the time Hendricks died in 2017, the art world was finally giving overdue recognition to his work, which applied centuries-old traditions of European painting to depictions of Black figures — friends, relatives or strangers he photographed in the streets with his Polaroid. Still, curators say, he’d likely have never imagined that in 2023, he’d be the first artist of color to have a solo show at the 88-year-old Frick.

“I think this is probably beyond his wildest dreams,” said co-curator Antwaun Sargent as he surveyed the room ahead of the show’s opening late last week, “to be showing in the institution that he so revered.”

Artworks from the Barkley L. Hendricks exhibition are displayed on Monday, Sept. 18, 2023 at The Frick Madison in New York. Hendricks, who died in 2017, is the first artist of color to have a solo exhibit at the Frick. ”Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick” is open now through Jan. 7, 2024. (Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/AP)

  • September 26, 2023
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