The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism: February 25 – July 28, 2024

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present the groundbreaking exhibition The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism from February 25 through July 28, 2024.

Through some 160 works, it will explore the comprehensive and far-reaching ways in which Black artists portrayed everyday modern life in the new Black cities that took shape in the 1920s–40s in New York City’s Harlem and Chicago’s South Side and nationwide in the early decades of the Great Migration when millions of African Americans began to move away from the segregated rural South.




The first survey of the subject in New York City since 1987, the exhibition will establish the Harlem Renaissance as the first African American–led movement of international modern art and will situate Black artists and their radically new portrayals of the modern Black subject as central to our understanding of international modern art and modern life.

“This landmark exhibition reframes the Harlem Renaissance, cementing its place as the first African American–led movement of international modern art,”

said Max Hollein, The Met’s Marina Kellen French Director and CEO. “Through compelling portraits, vibrant city scenes, history paintings, depictions of early mass protests and activism, and dynamic portrayals of night life created by leading artists of the time, the exhibition boldly underscores the movement’s pivotal role in shaping the portrayal of the modern Black subject—and indeed the very fabric of early 20th-century modern art.”

“We are very pleased to present this wide-ranging exhibition that establishes the New Negro cohort of African American artists and their allies—now known as the Harlem Renaissance—at the vanguard of the portrayal of modern Black life and culture in Harlem and other new Black cities nationwide at a time of rapid expansion in the first decades of the Great Migration,” added Denise Murrell, The Met’s Merryl H. and James S. Tisch Curator at Large.

“Many New Negro artists spent extended periods abroad and joined the multiethnic artistic circles in Paris, London, and Northern Europe that shaped the development of international modern art. The exhibition underscores the essential role of the Harlem Renaissance and its radically new modes of portraying the modern Black subject as central to the development of transatlantic modern art.”


“This landmark exhibition celebrates the brilliant and talented artists behind the groundbreaking cultural movement we now know as the Harlem Renaissance,” said Ford Foundation president Darren Walker. “I thank the dedicated team at The Met and applaud Denise Murrell for her vision and thoughtful curation of this vibrant collection of paintings, sculptures, film, and photography that gives a powerful glimpse into the Black experience in the early 20th century.”

The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism will open with galleries that explore the cultural philosophy that gave shape to the New Negro movement of art and literature, as the period was known at inception, using a term defined and popularized by the movement’s founding philosopher, Howard University professor Alain Locke, in dialogue and debate with W.E.B. Du Bois, Charles S. Johnson, and influential literary and music figures including Zora Neale Hurston, Langston Hughes, and James Weldon Johnson.

At the core of the exhibition are the artists who shared a commitment to depicting the modern Black subject in a radically modern way and to refusing the prevailing racist stereotypes.

Although united in their shared objective to portray all aspects of modern Black life and culture, individual New Negro artists developed widely varied representational styles, ranging from an engagement with African and Egyptian aesthetics and European avant-garde pictorial strategies to a commitment to classicized academic tradition.

Featured artists include Charles Alston, Aaron Douglas, Meta Warrick Fuller, Palmer Hayden, Bert Hurley, William H. Johnson, Archibald Motley, Jr., Winold Reiss, Augusta Savage, James Van Der Zee, and Laura Wheeler Waring.

The exhibition continues with galleries devoted to genre scenes and portraiture that capture all aspects of Black city life in the 1920s–40s as seen in vibrant paintings, sculpture, and film projections as well as photography from The Met’s recently acquired James Van Der Zee Archive and artists’ cover illustrations for books and periodicals, including the NAACP’s Crisis and the National Urban League’s Opportunity: A Journal of Negro Life. Monumentally scaled allegorical history paintings and portraits of luminaries will provide compelling vista views.

Galleries featuring paintings by New Negro artists who lived and worked in Europe during extended periods of expatriation will present their work in direct juxtaposition with portrayals of the international African diaspora by Black and white European artists including Henri MatisseEdvard Munch, and Pablo Picasso, as well as Germaine CasseKees van DongenJacob Epstein, and Ronald Moody.

The New Negro era’s fraught approach to social issues including queer identity, colorism and class tensions, and interracial relations will be the subject of a gallery featuring paintings, ephemera, and photography animated by film clips. The exhibition will conclude with an artist-as-activist gallery spotlighting artists’ treatment of social justice issues as the New Negro era comes to a close on the cusp of the 1950s civil rights movement. A coda will feature Romare Bearden’s 15-foot-wide series of collages, The Block (1970), from The Met collection, which evokes a town house row in mid- century Harlem and that sustains the legacy of the Harlem Renaissance.
In preparation for the exhibition, The Met undertook extensive archival research, original photography, technical imaging, and conservation treatment of important but seldom seen works of art.

For example, archival research by the curatorial team resulted in the first-ever dating of two Laura Wheeler Waring portraits from her family’s collections: Girl with Pomegranate (ca. 1940) and Girl in Pink Dress (ca. 1927).

Funding for the conservation of five of the James Van Der Zee photographs included in the exhibition was provided through a grant from the Bank of America Art Conservation Project.

The Met has an extended history of collecting and displaying works by artists active during the
Harlem Renaissance. In the 1940s, the Museum acquired several early works by gift from the Works Progress Administration (WPA), such as Jacob Lawrence’s Pool Parlor (1942) and Samuel Joseph Brown, Jr.’s Self-Portrait (ca. 1941).

In 1969, the Museum presented the exhibition “Harlemon My mind”: The Cultural Capital of Black America, 1900–1968, which was met with great controversy for excluding works of painting and sculpture by Black artists and instead presenting a social narrative of Harlem told through reproductions of newspaper clippings and photographs of prominent leaders and anonymous Harlem residents—in large-scale dioramas more similar to
ethnographic or natural history museum displays than to art museum galleries.

For the nearly 50 years since that exhibition, The Met has expanded its holdings of works produced during the
Harlem Renaissance—notably in 2021 with the establishment of the James Van Der Zee Archive in
partnership with the Studio Museum in Harlem—and through the acquisition of paintings
including by Aaron Douglas, Elizabeth Catlett, and Charles Alston it continues to be an area of focus.

The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism will provide an art and artist centered celebration and investigation into the Harlem Renaissance as a trailblazing, pivotal period within the art of the 20th century.

The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism exhibition is on view until July 28, 2024 at

The Metropolitan Museum of Art located at 1000 5th Avenue in New York City.