The Block Museum of Art, the Hammer Museum and the National Portrait Gallery partner on the acquisition of groundbreaking media work by Ja’Tovia Gary

Artist’s multichannel video installation, THE GIVERNY SUITE, will be jointly owned by the three institutions, allowing national access to the powerful artwork

The Block Museum of Art at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL; the Hammer Museum at UCLA; and the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery in Washington, DC, will jointly acquire the multichannel video installation The Giverny Suite (2019) by artist Ja’Tovia Gary. This institutional partnership will allow the artist’s powerful work to be viewed by audiences in three major metropolitan areas across the United States.

In The Giverny Suite, artist Ja’Tovia Gary (born 1984, Dallas, TX) grapples with and seeks refuge from the violent police killings of African Americans through a nonlinear combination of documentary, archival and abstract film techniques. Incorporating historical and archival found footage alongside Harlem street interviews and scenes of the artist exploring Monet’s famed Giverny Gardens, Gary centers the voices and bodies of Black women to meditate on the interconnected themes of insecurity/safety, isolation/respite, autonomy and love. The Giverny Suite is the third and final media work in a series exploring the same themes, including Giverny I (Négresse Impériale), 2017, and The Giverny Document, 2019. Taylor Bradley of The Brooklyn Rail writes, “Gary razes derivative historical narratives and turns archival rubble into a question of who stands witness to the chaos of the present and where we begin to process the past.”

“With The Giverny Suite, Gary presents a complicated and nuanced portrait of the diversity and complexity of Black women’s relationship to physical and emotional security,” says Janet Dees, the Steven and Lisa Munster Tananbaum Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art at The Block Museum of Art. “The inclusion of Gary’s work strengthens The Block’s commitment to challenging and innovative media art.”

As part of their partnership, The Block, the Hammer and the National Portrait Gallery will coordinate their presentations of the work and seek an equal division of exhibition time among the three museums. They will also coordinate loans of the work to other institutions.  The Hammer first exhibited the work in 2020, while The Block is planning on a 2025 presentation. At The Block, the acquisition is made possible by the Julie and Lawrence Bernstein Family Art Acquisition Fund. The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery purchase is made possible through the American Women’s History Initiative Acquisitions Pool, which is administered by the Smithsonian American Women’s History Initiative. For the Hammer, the acquisition was made possible with the support of the museum’s Board of Advisors.

In a joint statement, institutional directors Lisa Corrin of The Block, Ann Philbin of the Hammer and Kim Sajet of the National Portrait Gallery acknowledge the ongoing value of their collaboration: “This partnership has made possible the acquisition of work by a major American artist that would otherwise have been impossible individually. As we present this important installation in our unique spaces, our museums will undoubtedly learn from one another. Together, we hope this paves the way not only for other joint acquisitions but also for a national dialogue on Ja’Tovia Gary’s work and the crucial themes she addresses.”

About the Artist

Ja’Tovia Gary (born 1984, Dallas, TX) uses documentary film and experimental video art to address representation, race, gender, sexuality and violence. Her critically acclaimed immersive multimedia piece The Giverny Suite (2019) was the subject of one-person exhibitions at the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and the Paula Cooper Gallery in New York in 2020. Gary’s other films have been screened at the Houston Cinema Arts Festival; BlackStar Film Festival in Philadelphia; American Film Institute Festival in Los Angeles; Montreal International Documentary Festival; International Film Festival Rotterdam in Holland; Frameline LGBTQ Film Festival in Edinburgh; New Orleans Film Festival; and Ann Arbor Film Festival in Michigan. Her work is in the collections of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Whitney Museum of American Art, Studio Museum in Harlem, Memorial Art Gallery at the University of Rochester and Thoma Foundation.

Image: Ja’Tovia Gary (American, born 1984) THE GIVERNY SUITE. 2019 Three-channel high-definition video and 16mm film transferred to video (black and white and color, stereo sound; 39:51 min.); 16:9 aspect ratio; settee; 25 white painted frames; altar to Yemaya (candle, sea shells, anchor, fruit, plate, vase, flowers, glass jar of molasses, glass jar of rum and fabric); and altar to Oshun (candle, mirror, cowrie shells, fruit, cinnamon sticks, plate, vases, flowers, glass jar of white wine, glass jar of honey and fabric), Installation view, flesh that needs to be loved, Paula Cooper Gallery, New York, NY, February 15 – March 21, 2020. Photo: Steven Probert.

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