Article

Where to See Black Art in Philadelphia

Explore museums and galleries featuring African and African-American artists

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African-American art at PAFA Photo by B. Krist for Visit Philadelphia
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For more than a century, the city of Philadelphia has been home to prominent African-American artists who received academic training and created visual works of all media here, contributing to the artistic and intellectual life of the city.

Establishments like the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts and art schools like Moore College of Art and Design and Tyler School of Art at Temple University 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 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 and African-American art in Philadelphia.

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The African American Museum in Philadelphia

Celebrating and interpreting African-American history and culture

— J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

In addition to special exhibitions, The African American Museum in Philadelphia displays a large collection of paintings, photographs, prints, drawings, sculptures and mixed-media works that chronicle and dramatically tell the story of the African Diaspora.

On permanent display is Audacious Freedom: African Americans in Philadelphia 1776 – 1876, a must-see interactive exhibit that recounts the stories of and contributions made by people of African descent in Philadelphia during the tumultuous years following the founding of our nation. Through this exhibit, visitors learn more about who these individuals were, how they lived and worked, and their unheralded impact on our nation.

Where: The African American Museum in Philadelphia, 701 Arch Street

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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, and visitors can see works by other African-Americans inside the building as well. The museum mounts special exhibitions of borrowed works and displays a portion of the more than 500 works by 130 African-American artists in its permanent collections.

Where: Philadelphia Museum of Art, 2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

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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 described 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 displays its significant collection of African art in remarkable ensembles that show how the likes of Picasso and Modigliani were influenced by the stylistic and symbolic forms in African art.

Where: Barnes Foundation, 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway

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Penn Museum

Transforming understanding of the human experience

Penn Museum Penn Museum
— Photo courtesy Penn Museum

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, or  Penn Museum, boasts an extensive collection of African art and artifacts such as masks, sculptures, instruments, famed Benin bronzes, embroidered garments and jewelry. Visitors can also marvel at a wide range of other materials from throughout the continent, which are on permanent display in the African and Egyptian galleries.

Where: Penn Museum, 3260 South Street

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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.

Where: Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, 118-128 N. Broad Street

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Brandywine Workshop

— Photo courtesy Brandywine Workshop

For more than 45 years, the Brandywine Workshop has been a national force in the development and understanding of American printmaking as a fine-art form. The organization has sponsored more than 350 visiting artists’ residencies from 35 states and 15 countries, in addition to ethnically diverse artists from around the region. Guests can peruse and purchase more than 600 prints and lithographs from artists-in-residence past and present, including Sam Gilliam, Jacob Landau, Jules Olitski, Betye Saar and Moe Brooker.

Where: Brandywine Workshop, 730 S. Broad Street

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07

Woodmere Art Museum

Salon-style displays of American paintings and decorative arts

Woodmere Art Museum will honor Martin Luther King Jr. with storytelling, interactive education sessions and more. — J. Fusco for Visit Philadelphia

Located in historic Chestnut Hill, Woodmere Art Museum celebrates the work of Philadelphia artists, including the city’s many great African-American talents. The museum owns works by Charles Jay, Humbert Howard, Charles Searles, Sterling Shaw, Ron Tarver, Claude Clark, Paul F. Keene Jr. and James Brantley, and it regularly displays works by Allan R. Freelon, Dox Thrash, Raymond Steth, Louis Baynard Sloan, David Clyde Driskell and Moe Brooker.

Where: Woodmere Art Museum, 9201 Germantown Avenue

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Art Sanctuary

— M. Fischetti for Visit Philadelphia

Anchored in the booming neighborhood of Graduate Hospital and a few short steps away from South Street, Art Sanctuary regularly hosts exhibits by a wide range of African-American artists from Philadelphia and beyond. From new and emerging talents inspired by hip-hop, music and popular culture to world-touring photographers like Erin Cosby and Ruth Naomi Floyd, this black-art-centered non-profit has become home to some of the region’s finest and most exciting African-American talents.

Where: Art Sanctuary, 628 S. 16th Street

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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.

Where: Rush Arts Philadelphia, 4954 Old York Road

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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 shared its mission from its Germantown flagships through kiosks and shows across town, long before pop-ups were cool.

Where: October Gallery, 6353 Greene Street

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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 continued their traditions, working in ceramics, stained glass, murals and figures, and holding al fresco Sunday art circles, where painters bring their easels, drummers bring their drums and poets bring their poetry.

Where: Tiberino Museum, 3819 Hamilton Street

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The African American Museum in Philadelphia
Philadelphia Museum of Art
The Barnes Foundation
Penn Museum
The Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts
Brandywine Workshop
Woodmere Art Museum
Art Sanctuary
Rush Arts Philadelphia
October Gallery
Tiberino Museum
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