Phillips Collection celebrates 100th year with Jacob Lawrence, David Driskell, Alma Thomas

The Phillips Collection in Washington, D.C. celebrates its 100th year with power and style. Jacob Lawrence, David Driskell and Alma Thomas will all shine inside America’s fist museum dedicated to Modern art throughout 2021.

I have described Jacob Lawrence: American Struggle, as the best, most important art exhibition in America in 2020. Here is your last chance to see it. Driskell and Thomas have deep D.C. roots providing their shows rich local context in addition to their national appeal.

“Over our 100-year history, our museum has transformed from an intimate memorial to Duncan Phillips’s father and brother, to a renowned museum on the world stage,” says Vradenburg Director and CEO Dorothy Kosinski. “As we start the next vibrant chapter of our story, we look forward to expanding our reach and impact by continuing to champion the powerfully diverse artistic expressions of our ever-changing world.”

The museum opened its doors as a memorial to founder Duncan Phillips’s father, Duncan Clinch Phillips, and brother, James, who died in the 1918 flu epidemic. Recognizing the healing power of art, Phillips sought to share his “living” collection in a welcoming space and to inspire others to find beauty in the artist’s unique way of seeing the world. The centennial celebrations will highlight the museum’s commitment to using modern and contemporary art as a catalyst for conversation around urgent issues of our time, building community, and creating empathy.

Centennial Exhibitions at the Phillips will include:

Jacob Lawrence: American Struggle

June 26–September 19, 2021

Jacob Lawrence was one of the greatest narrative artists of the 20th century. His revolutionary, yet little-known, 30-panel series Struggle…From the History of the American People, painted between 1954 and 1956, invited a new way of chronicling erased histories about America’s founding. For the first time since 1958, the series is reunited together with the latest discovery of panel 16, presenting a timely moment to address these panels’ continued resonance in light of current social and political realities.

David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History

October 16, 2021–January 9, 2022

David Driskell: Icons of Nature and History offers the first retrospective of the paintings, prints, and drawings of the late internationally acclaimed American artist, art historian, and educator, who was also a beloved friend of The Phillips Collection and leader of the DC artistic community. Over 50 works highlight Driskell’s expressive command of color, line, and symbolic form in his vibrant painting and printmaking practice—one rooted in his spiritual ties to the natural world and to the aesthetic innovations of the African diaspora.

Alma W. Thomas: Everything is Beautiful

October 30, 2021–January 23-2022

Alma W. Thomas: Everything is Beautiful provides a fresh perspective on the artist’s dynamic long life and multifaceted career that was defined by constant creativity. Featuring approximately 100 works, including her rarely seen theatrical designs and beloved abstract paintings, this major retrospective, organized around multiple themes, traces Thomas’s journey from semi-rural Georgia to Washington, DC, to international acclaim and demonstrates how her artistic practices affected every facet of her life—from community service and teaching to gardening and dressmaking.  

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