Migrating to MoMA: Jacob Lawrence Panel Discussion

Phillips curator Elsa Smithgall discusses Lawrence's Migration Series with panelists in the MoMA conservation studio. Photo: Liza Key Strelka

Phillips curator Elsa Smithgall discusses the MoMA panels of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series with scholars in the MoMA conservation studio. Photo: Liza Key Strelka

Last week, Curator Elsa Smithgall and I traveled to New York for a panel discussion at the Museum of Modern Art on Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series in preparation for a collaborative exhibition between the Phillips and MoMA in 2015 and 2016. The exhibition will reunite the 30 panels from the Phillips’ collection with the 30 panels in MoMA’s collection, and will open at MoMA in 2015 and then travel to the Phillips in 2016.

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Curators, conservators, and scholars view MoMA’s Migrations Series panels. Photo: Liza Key Strelka

The panel included 15 participants from various fields of study and expertise, including art history, philosophy, poetry and literature, American history, African-American culture, fine art, film making, music, and culinary arts. Participants spent the day discussing the continued relevance of Lawrence’s work and ways to approach the series from new viewpoints and disciplines. This discussion and subsequent meetings will shape the content and programming of each institution’s exhibition, providing a fresh, contemporary context for this seminal artwork.

Celebrating Pakistani Voices

Images of Pakistani artists with their work and around The Phillips Collection

Top: Artists (left to right) Muhammed Zeeshan Younas, Sehr Jalil, Farah Khan, Naira Mushtaq, and Aneela Khursheed, in discussion with moderator Ambassador Stuart Holliday, Phillips Educator Rachel Goldberg, and US Department of State Regional Coordinating Officer Attia Nasar. Middle: At the reception after the panel, artists discussed their work with Georgetown University School of Foreign Service students and VIP guests including House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. Bottom: Panelists and artists Yusra Muhammad Baig, Sophia Mairaj Malik, Sumbal Mushtaq, Rabia Rabail, Ammar Savul, Ruby Guy Shah, Qurat Ul Ain, and Huma Arshad Warraich, with Pakistani artist, actor, and activist Jamal Shah. Photos: Pepe Gomez

In November, thirteen emerging artists whose work is featured in Pakistani Voices: In Conversation with The Migration Series visited the United States for an 11-day cultural exchange program, touring museums in DC and New York and also visiting one of the Phillips’s partner schools, Takoma Education Campus. Five of the artists participated on a panel at the Phillips to discuss their work with Rachel Goldberg in Pakistan and their trip to DC.

Artist Muhammed Zeeshan Younas shares his thoughts about what the experience has taught him:

  • For me art is not only for the artists—art is for everyone. Everyone should understand what you are trying to say through your artwork. That is why I’ve been learning all kind of tools of art—I started as a sculptor, and then I went to painting, and now I am working on videos and animation. Talking to so many people from kids to elders on this trip has inspired me—I say to them, “What inspires you? Who are you?” and they express themselves. Sometime they tell me about their problems, about what they like, what they dislike. I already know what people in my country think, and when I came here and talked to Americans, I really feel no difference, even from the kids. People are so friendly—they respond to me. And I want to incorporate this into my art because when we use the term social change, it means we need to know what our society needs and how to communicate these problems in art. Because art is for society so we must understand it what society wants and needs.

Storytelling Through Art: Pakistani Voices

In this video, Phillips Educator Rachel Goldberg explains how the exhibition Pakistani Voices: In Conversation with The Migration Series, which brings together work by Pakistani students, artists, and art educators with Jacob Lawrence’s epic series of panel paintings, came to be.