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Art Historian Sarah Lewis on Why Black Artists Have Been ‘Over-Exhibited and Under-Theorized’

Updated: Mar 24


Portrait of Sarah Elizabeth Lewis.

Photographed by Stu Rosner.

In this interview for Artnet, Folasade Ologundudu speaks with art historian Sarah Elizabeth Lewis. Lewis, an associate professor of the History of Art and Architecture and African and African-American studies at Harvard University, shared her thoughts on how African American art and art history has changed over the past two decades. She also discusses her own personal investments in working in the field. Lewis also speaks on the relationship between the work of Black artists and contestations of racial injustice.


“What is interesting about our current moment, however, is that we are seeing, I would argue, power shift not so much away from museums, but becoming shared with the work of scholarship to properly position Black artists within the grand narrative of history. When you study the work of even the most celebrated Black artists . . . you often find that their work has been over-exhibited and under-theorized, and this has created an asymmetry between acclaim and the discourse on their work.” - Sarah Elizabeth Lewis
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