The Frick Collection at Frick Madison

Viewing the Frick Collection at Frick Madison, during the "Barkley L. Hendricks: Portraits at the Frick" exhibition, offered a contrast between past and current artistic mastery

There are some museum special collections that bring tears to my eyes. The Frick Museums’ display of BARKLEY L HENDRICKS: PORTRAITS AT THE FRICK was just that for me.

Immediately upon the elevator doors opening on the 4th floor, I was blown back by the energy and force of the opening image.

In it, a black woman is seen with her afro in crowed glory. Around her, carefully applied gold leaf makes the piece radiate as modern day renaissance painting.

Immediately, I thought of Beyonce’s Renaissance album and the concept of Black Renaissance. And, the complete joy I felt by seeing my skin color represented in the masterful work of artists.

Hendrick’s work was simply put – glorious. Tones, textures – white on off whites – radiated on canvas. You could clearly see how he’d been inspired by studying other masters of the craft at the Frick Museum. There was a clear sense of time and presence captured within the eyes of his portraits.

Now, one thing to note – you cannot under any circumstances take a photo of any of the artwork at the the Frick.

At all.

Not even to show your best friend back at home.

How serious are they about this? I saw a woman get called out for taking a photo of a painting. A security guard immediately ushered her to the side and forced her to delete the photo.

They are that serious. Plus, the no photo rule is very clearly displayed and repeated. So, if you break the rule, it is completely on you.

That’s the odd thing about certain people. They think the clearly stated rules don’t apply to them. And then get offended when they actually are.

Making my way through the rest of the Frick Madison collection – I was struck by the whiteness. The dead whiteness. In the shadow of Hendrick’s, these masterful pieces were an assortment of lackluster moments in history. Yes, they were distinctive in the process. But, I found myself saying “another dead white guy” to a piece by Edgar Degas.

And I realized how the Spike Lee and Jay Z retrospectives had actually changed me. Representation matters. I felt empowered in my blackness, in my artistic process and vision.

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The Frick Collection at Frick Madison

945 Madison Avenue at 75th Street
Manhattan, New York 10021
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