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Ten Years of the Thompson Collection

Georgia Museum of Art

In 2012, Larry and Brenda Thompson donated 100 works to the museum from their prominent collection of works by African American artists. But they didn’t stop there. They also funded an endowment to support a new curatorial position at the museum to study works by Black artists, both American and international. Their gift has resulted in major changes.

Although works they donated are on view throughout the museum’s permanent collection galleries, the long-term installation “Decade of Tradition: Highlights from the Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Collection” provides a focused place to see some of that gift.

Traditionally, museums excluded works by African American artists, and the Thompsons have often characterized their collecting as a means of overcoming that practice. Creating a dedicated gallery for works by African American artists allows the museum to give them the sustained attention they deserve.

Shawnya Harris, the museum’s deputy director of curatorial and academic affairs and its Larry D. and Brenda A. Thompson Curator of African American and African Diasporic Art, pulled together the display. Harris shares that her role “is to establish that process of stewardship that will make inclusivity possible. As the years go on, we can broaden the museum's collection while promoting a sense of equity in the way we highlight art traditions.”

Works on view in the gallery rotate regularly, allowing visitors to see a variety of what the Thompson collection includes, from Joseph Delaney’s 1964 portrait of a woman in a striped dress to a jazzy, abstract, mixed-media work by Moe Brooker from 2003.

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