Between 1947 and 1967, institutions such as the Harmon Foundation, the Museum of Modern Art, New York,
and Historically Black Colleges and Universities collected and exhibited works by many of the most important
African artists of the mid-twentieth century, including Ben Enwonwu (Nigeria), Gerard Sekoto (South Africa),
Ibrahim El-Salahi (Sudan), and Skunder Boghossian (Ethiopia). The inventive and irrefutably contemporary nature
of these artists’ paintings, sculptures, and works on paper defied typical Western narratives about African art
being isolated in a "primitive" past. This talk introduces the touring exhibition African Modernism in America,
which opened at Fisk University Galleries in October 2022. It will examine the complex connections between
modern African artists and American patrons, artists, and cultural organizations amid the interlocking histories
of civil rights, decolonization, and the Cold War and reveal a transcontinental network of artists, curators, and
scholars that challenged assumptions about African art in the United States and encouraged American
engagement with African artists as contemporaries.
Perrin M. Lathrop, Ph.D., joined the Princeton University Art Museum as assistant curator of African art
in 2022. She was previously postdoctoral Fellow in modern and contemporary art history at the
University of Maryland-Phillips Collection (2021–22), the Warhol Foundation Curatorial Fellow at Fisk
University Galleries (2018–19), and a Predoctoral Fellow at the Smithsonian National Museum of
African Art (2017–18). As a curatorial associate in the arts of global Africa at the Newark Museum
(2012–2013), Perrin curated The Art of Translation: The Simon Ottenberg Gift of Modern and
Contemporary Nigerian Art. She received her doctorate from Princeton University in the Department of Art &
Archaeology with a graduate certificate in African American studies in 2021. Her research, teaching,
and curatorial work explore the interlocking intellectual histories and networks of nationalism, Pan-
Africanism, and modernism that informed art produced under the strictures of colonialism in Africa.
Perrin is co-curator of the traveling exhibition African Modernism in America with Fisk University
Galleries and the American Federation of Arts (2022–24) and editor of its accompanying publication.