Soul of a Nation

Art in the Age of Black Power

February 3 - April 23, 2018

During the rise of the Black Power movement, many Black artists were asking fundamental questions about their role: Should a work of art communicate a direct political message? Could it be abstract? What audience should be addressed? Is there a ‘Black art’ or a ‘Black aesthetic’?

Soul of a Nation—organized by the Tate Modern, and debuting in the US at Crystal Bridges—is a look at how American culture was reshaped through the work of Black artists during the tumultuous 1960s, ‘70s, and early ‘80s. The exhibition features more than 150 artworks, beginning with works by the Spiral group, a New York-based collective who opened up questions of the role of artists in the Civil Rights movement. From there, the exhibition traces the impact of the growing Black Power movement on Black artists, and explores the many ways these artists worked to protest discrimination, rally people to their cause, and celebrate Black culture.

This landmark exhibition features artworks by more than 60 Black artists, including Romare Bearden, Melvin Edwards, Betye Saar, Faith Ringgold, Charles White, Alvin Loving, Alma Thomas, and Lorraine O’Grady. Soul of a Nation opens a window onto the heart of the Black Power movement in all of its beauty, pride, power, and aspiration.

Crystal Bridges is one of only two American venues to host this important and eye-opening exhibition. Following its debut at Crystal Bridges, the exhibition travels to the Brooklyn Museum in New York.

This exhibition is organized by Tate Modern in collaboration with Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, and Brooklyn Museum, New York. Curated by Lauren Haynes, Crystal Bridges Curator, Contemporary Art; and Mark Godfrey, Senior Curator, International Art, and Zoe Whitley, Adjunct Research Curator, supported by Guaranty Trust Bank plc, Tate Modern. Sponsored at Crystal Bridges by Deborah Wright.


Elizabeth Catlett, Black Unity, 1968, Cedar, 21 in. × 12 1/2 in. × 23 in., Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, Arkansas, 2014.11. Photography by Edward C. Robison III.