What the Kelley Collection demonstrates is how African American collectors have emerged over the last 40 years and become important forces in the art world and have an impact on the critical, curatorial, and market positions of African American artists.—Lowery Stokes Sims, former director of the Studio Museum in Harlem
Pioneering collectors Harriet and Harmon Kelley paved the way for the collection of African American art by museums and private individuals across San Antonio, Texas, and the United States. Something to Say: The McNay Presents 100 Years of African American Art illustrates the Kelley Collection’s impact on our cultural landscape by juxtaposing works from their renowned holdings with loans from the burgeoning collections of African American art of Guillermo Nicolas/Jim Foster and the McNay Art Museum. Something to Say is the first survey of modern and contemporary African American art to be presented at the McNay.
Drawn primarily from the ground-breaking collection assembled by Harriet and Harmon Kelley over nearly three decades, Something to Say presents more than 50 paintings, sculptures, works on paper, and photographs by a wide range of 20th- and 21st-century artists. Featuring masterpieces by such iconic figures as Charles Alston, Elizabeth Catlett, Lois Mailou Jones, Jacob Lawrence, Hughie Lee-Smith, Norman Lewis, Horace Pippin, and Charles White, the exhibition and its related programs allow visitors to reflect upon a broad range of African American experiences, and examines the ways different African American artists have expressed personal, political, and racial identity over approximately 100 years. The exhibition empowers the visitor to appreciate multiple perspectives through various artistic expressions. Something to Say therefore exemplifies the McNay’s commitment to equity, inclusion, and social consciousness as well as artistic excellence.
Throughout the development and planning of Something to Say, the McNay has sought the insights and perspectives of many community members. The exhibition’s Community Committee includes Harriet Kelley, Guillermo Nicolas, Freda Facey, and Veronique LeMelle; additional partners across San Antonio help further inform the exhibition and promote reflection, dialogue, and creativity within the larger community.
Something to Say is organized by the McNay’s Head of Curatorial Affairs, René Paul Barilleaux. Serving as the exhibition’s curatorial advisor is Lowery Stokes Sims, a former curator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, former director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, and former chief curator at the Museum of Arts and Design, all in New York City. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue featuring two seminal essays by Sims: one focused on the artworks on view and the other on the evolution of the Kelley Collection.
In recognition of Black History Month 2016, we were honored to have Harriet Kelley at the McNay to discuss the origins of the celebration, and to share her insight on two works from the Harriet and Harmon Kelley Foundation for the Arts. Both works are featured in Something to Say.