The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century presents a sweeping art history of hip-hop culture and its myriad expressions across the globe.
The multidisciplinary and multimedia exhibition examines the resounding impact of hip-hop on contemporary art and culture, including its unique contributions to innovations in music, visual and performing arts, fashion and technology. To illuminate the depth of hip-hop’s influence, the exhibition will feature immersive installations, fashion, painting, sculpture, photography and video, showcasing the complex, expansive and international allure of one of the 20th and 21st century’s great cultural movements.
The Culture will prominently showcase iconic paintings not previously exhibited in St. Louis by some of the art world’s most famous practitioners, including Jean-Michel Basquiat and Mark Bradford, as well as works by artists represented in the Saint Louis Art Museum collection, such as Julie Mehretu and Kehinde Wiley. Other featured artists include Nina Chanel Abney, Derrick Adams, Yasiin Bey & Futura, Jordan Casteel, Kudzanai Chiurai, William Cordova, Hassan Hajjaj, Lauren Halsey, Arthur Jafa, Deana Lawson and Hank Willis Thomas.
The exhibition will include significant examples of fashion, including looks from Virgil Abloh’s collections for Louis Vuitton and legendary streetwear brand Cross Colours, as well as a range of music ephemera. To further illuminate hip-hop’s influence, the exhibition incorporates artists with deep ties to local communities. St. Louis and Missouri artists include Anthony Olubunmi Akinbola, Damon Davis, Jen Everett, Aaron Fowler, Kahlil Robert Irving, Yvonne Osei and Adrian Octavius Walker.
The Culture will explore a series of themes, emphasizing pressing issues in the hip-hop industry, such as the complex relationship between capitalism, commodification and racial identity; hip-hop culture’s connection to gender, sexuality, feminism, appropriation and misogyny; and hip-hop’s relationship to the art world and the art market.
The Culture is organized by the Saint Louis Art Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art. Conceived and developed as a collaborative effort that engages with both museums’ curatorial and education departments, The Culture will emphasize community access and engagement as core to the exhibition experience. This open dialogue will elevate connection to local communities and facilitation of collaborative exhibition development. Designing a strategic approach to curating that includes outside perspectives further recognizes the importance of communities having a say in the way their story is told.
As part of the planning for this exhibition, the Baltimore Museum of Art and Saint Louis Art Museum have engaged a global advisory committee of experts comprising hip-hop’s leading thinkers: academics, musicians, fashion designers, visual artists and curators who have been helping the curatorial team refine exhibition themes, adhere to the ethos of hip-hop and be accessible to the local community and beyond.
The Saint Louis Art Museum will celebrate The Culture with a free, public preview starting at 4 p.m. on Aug. 25.