EXCLUSIVE: Brooklyn Museum’s 2024 Artists Ball to Honor Titus Kaphar

Visual artist and filmmaker Titus Kaphar will be the honoree at Brooklyn Museum’s 13th annual Brooklyn Artists Ball on April 9. Kaphar, who has a deep history with the Brooklyn Museum, will be honored for his impact on contemporary art as well as his activism. His work has been included in numerous exhibitions at the museum, including “The Legacy of Lynching: Confronting Racial Terror in America” in 2017; his seminal work, “Shifting the Gaze” (2017), is housed in the museum’s permanent collection, and he has a piece in the current exhibit “Giants,” which features works from the collection of Alicia Keys and Kasseem Dean (aka Swizz Beatz).

An installation by Kaphar on view as part of the museum’s exhibition “Giants: Art From the Dean Collection of Swizz Beatz and <a href="https://wwd.com/fashion-news/fashion-scoops/alicia-keys-new-years-resolutions-music-hells-kitchen-athleta-drop-1236145293/" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Alicia Keys;elm:context_link;itc:0;sec:content-canvas" class="link ">Alicia Keys</a>.”

The Artists Ball is the museum’s largest fundraising event of the year and includes a cocktail reception in the lobby followed by a seated dinner in the Beaux-Arts Court. Maria Grazia Chiuri, Dior’s creative director of women’s haute couture, ready-to-wear and accessories was honored two years ago; Dior returns as lead sponsor of this year’s gala. As previously revealed, the fashion house will unveil Chiuri’s pre-fall 2024 collection at the Brooklyn Museum on April 15. (Last year’s honoree was photographer and video artist Carrie Mae Weems.)

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Kaphar, who lives and works in New Haven, Conn., five years ago cofounded the artists incubator Nxthvn, which empowers emerging artists and curators of color though education and access, including intergenerational mentorships, professional development and cross-sector collaborations. Located in two former manufacturing plants in the Dixwell neighborhood of New Haven, which borders downtown New Haven and the Yale University campus, Nxthvn underwrites fellowships and apprenticeships and mounts exhibits and events. Kaphar serves as the organization’s president.

“We are thrilled to be honoring Titus Kaphar, an artist of great humanity, community builder, and trustee who has made a profound impact on both our museum and contemporary culture as a whole,” Brooklyn Museum director Anne Pasternak said in a statement.

Added Kaphar: “To say I am honored by this recognition is an understatement. The Brooklyn Museum is an extraordinary champion to my most beloved artists and influences. I am grateful to be on the board of this powerful institution that so fearlessly advocates for creativity when it is so very much needed in the world.”

Kaphar’s work — paintings, sculpture, drawings, installations — engages and reexamines the historical record, reflecting the erasure, generational trauma and activism of African Americans, from slavery and Jim Crow to the Black Power Movement and contemporary racial justice protests. “Shifting the Gaze” —which Kaphar completed onstage during a 2017 TED Talk in Vancouver titled “Can art amend history?” — was a seminal moment in contemporary art, dramatically embodying Kaphar’s activism in front of a live audience. A reinterpretation of a 17th-century Dutch painting, the piece fuses performance art with Kaphar’s command of artistic traditions. Using a wide brush dipped in whitewash, he dramatically obscured all but the young Black boy at the center of the canvas, deliberately foregrounding individuals who have been overlooked in the historical canon and inviting viewers to reexamine the established historical canon.

Kaphar’s “Jerome Project,” which he began in 2011, is a series of small portraits on gold leaf of incarcerated Black men. The images are based on their mug shots, which Kaphar unearthed while he was searching for his estranged father’s prison records. He went through dozens of mug shots of men with the same name as his father.

In 2021, Kaphar established his film production company Revolution Ready. He made his feature-length directorial debut with “Exhibiting Forgiveness” — which stars André Holland, James Earl Jelks, Andra Day and Aunjanue Ellis-Taylor — which premiered to positive reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival. It follows the reconciliation of a young painter with his estranged former drug addict father. He has also produced the documentary “Shut Up and Paint.”

Kaphar’s works have been featured in numerous solo exhibits including at Seattle Art Museum, The Studio Museum in Harlem, MoMA PS1 and the National Portrait Gallery. He earned his MFA from Yale School of Art and has earned numerous prizes and awards including a MacArthur Fellowship and an Art for Justice Fund, both in 2018.

Titus Kaphar’s “Shifting the Gaze,” 2017, which the artist completed on stage during a 2017 TED Talk.
Titus Kaphar’s “Shifting the Gaze,” 2017, which the artist completed on stage during a 2017 TED Talk.

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