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Art Sanctuary

CREDIT: M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

CREDIT: B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia

CREDIT: Photo courtesy Penn Museum

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Where to See African and African-American Art in Philadelphia

Explore museums and galleries featuring African and African-American artists

For more than a century, the city of Philadelphia has been home to a number of prominent African-American artists who received academic training and created visual works of all media, contributing to the artistic and intellectual life of the city.

Establishments like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, art schools like Moore College of Art and Design and Tyler School of Art at Temple University and venues like Sande Webster Gallery and ArtJaz Gallery have provided important channels for the career development of African-American artists in Philadelphia.

Today, visitors can find a phenomenal selection of African and African-American art within permanent collections, special exhibitions and exciting shows at museums and galleries around the city. From the masks and sculptures at the Barnes Foundation to the contemporary works at Rush Arts Philadelphia to the actual east façade of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, mediums of all sorts from local, national and international artists can be viewed at venues throughout Philadelphia.

Read on to learn more about where you can view African-American art in Philadelphia.

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Philadelphia Museum of Art

Prominent African-American architect Julian Abele is credited with the design of the east façade of the Philadelphia Museum of Art, but visitors can see works by other African-Americans inside the building as well. The museum mounts special exhibitions of borrowed works, and throughout the year, displays a portion of the more than 500 works by 130 African-American artists in its permanent collections.
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The Barnes Foundation

Dr. Albert Barnes’ interest in African art dates back to the early 1920s when he acquired traditional African masks and sculptures from the Dan and possibly Kulango societies of Côte d’Ivoire, as well as from Guinea and northeast Liberia. Visitors can see these works, which he describes as “the purest expression of the three-dimensional form,” at the Barnes Foundation.

Home to a remarkable collection of paintings from the masters of modern art, the Barnes Foundation’s significant collection of African art is displayed in remarkable ensembles that show how the likes of Picasso and Modigliani were influenced by the stylistic and symbolic forms in African art.
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The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts

At the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, the nation’s first fine arts school and museum and the first in the world to exhibit works by an African-American artist, visitors can view major works by Nick Cave, Kehinde Wiley, Whitfield Lovell, Mickalene Thomas, Jacob Lawrence, Horace Pippin and others on permanent display throughout the galleries.
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Rush Arts Philadelphia

A branch of New York City's Rush Philanthropic Arts Foundation, Rush Arts Philadelphia is an art gallery featuring the work of African-American artists. Founded by Danny, Russell, and Joey "Rev Run" Simmons, this gallery features contemporary art with a culturally savvy background.
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October Gallery

“African-American art is good for everyone” is the motto of this circa-1985 vast repository of mostly contemporary black art. This elder statesman of creativity has shared its mission from its Germantown flagships through kiosks and shows across town, long before pop-ups were cool.
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Tiberino Museum

Known as “the West Philly Wyeths,” the artistic Tiberino family has long occupied five homes that overlook a common courtyard — and allowed visitors to stroll through their artful residences. After patriarchs Joseph and Ellen Powell passed, their adult children continue their traditions, working in ceramics, stained glass, painting murals and figures, and holding al fresco Sunday art circles, where painters bring their easels; drummers bring their drums; poets, their poetry.
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