The art exhibition “Filling in the Pieces in Black,” curated by June Sarpong and presented in collaboration with Maruani Mercier and Saatchi Gallery, has emerged as a pivotal moment in the art world, reflecting a profound commitment to diversity and inclusivity. Integral to the exhibition’s success is the partnership between June Sarpong and Maruani Mercier.
Laurent Mercier, since joining his partner Serge Maruani in 2013, has been on a mission to further diversify the gallery’s roster. His strategic decision to include artists like Lyle Ashton Harris and Hank Willis Thomas in the gallery’s lineup predates the Black Lives Matter movement, underscoring the gallery’s foresight and commitment to diversity.
In a recent interview, Mercier revealed his process of involving June Sarpong in the project.
“I was searching for influential personalities for whom diversity matters and stumbled upon June. Her immediate acceptance to curate her first show was a testament to her incredible personality – smart, well-connected, and very hands-on. Working with June was a seamless and collaborative experience. She’s someone you can’t refuse anything to, and that’s how we managed to bring together 32 participating artists.”
Mercier elaborated on the challenges and triumphs of organizing the show.
“It was a 24/7 job for my team, coordinating artworks from 32 artists across 12 countries to two different locations on time. The logistical challenges were immense, especially with artists being late in responding and delivering. Mickalene Thomas’ work, for instance, cleared customs just hours before the opening.”
Sarpong, in her curator’s note, emphasized the importance of presenting a multifaceted representation of the Black experience.
“Our human story is rich and intersecting… This ensemble of artists fills in where key components are often missing, aiming to fill in the vibrance, courage, dignity, sensuality, beauty, color, love, strength, humanity, grace, and joy,” explained Sarpong.
Sarpong said the show aimed to redefine the past narrative, refocus the present, and reshape the future of the Black experience, historically marred by colonialism and the Transatlantic slave trade.
The London opening of the show was a particular highlight.
“What was planned as a seated dinner in the galleries turned into a walking dinner due to the overwhelming turnout. It was an incredible success,” Mercier noted.
He also mentioned a unique LED event organized by W1Creates on Oxford Street, where Flannels department store lit up with artworks from the exhibition, offering an immersive experience in their basement.
Among the featured artists, Nate Lewis, a formerly D.C.-based artist, stands out. His participation, along with other artists like Hank Willis Thomas, who attended Duke Ellington School of the Arts, adds depth to the dialogue the exhibition seeks to foster.
Lewis, reflecting on the significance of the exhibition, remarked, “It’s really important that Black artists’ work is starting to be received now and that there’s a platform and audience for it. This serves as encouragement to other Black artists to know that their abilities and visions matter.”
A star-studded opening in London co-hosted by figures like Roland Rudd, David Schwimmer, and Tine Tempah, was a testament to the show’s broad appeal. The event, sponsored by the London Stock Exchange Group, brought together change agents, thought leaders, and creatives. Guests dined at tables designed by Yinka Ilori and enjoyed dishes by award-winning chef Akwasi Brenya-Mensa, inspired by cuisines from the African Diaspora.
“Filling in the Pieces in Black” is not just an art exhibition; it is a vibrant, living conversation that invites viewers to engage with the rich tapestry of the Black experience. It stands as a powerful reminder of art’s ability to transcend boundaries and foster a deeper understanding of shared humanity.
The gallery is open in Belgium until Jan. 6.
Source: Washington Informer