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New Metropolitan Museum of Art exhibit celebrates Harlem Renaissance

Art exhibit celebrating the Harlem Renaissance will open at the Met
Art exhibit celebrating the Harlem Renaissance will open at the Met 02:20

NEW YORK -- The Metropolitan Museum of Art is set to open the first African-American-led movement of international modern art.

Nearly a century after the Harlem Renaissance began, a new exhibit at the Met is celebrating the arts and culture boom from Black artists. All throughout "The Harlem Renaissance and Transatlantic Modernism," you'll find different facets of the Harlem experience expressed through paintings, sculptures and installations.

"You'll see Duke Ellington performing at the Cotton Club and Cab Calloway dancing while he's conducting an orchestra," said Denise Murrell, Tisch Curator at Large.

Murrell says she hopes the show will highlight the Harlem Renaissance's central role in American and European modernism.

"It's the full sweep of life in the 1920s to 1940s ... Add some images to what we already know about the very vibrant life, cafes and dance clubs, the Savoy Ballroom, the nightlife, the jazz clubs," Murrell said.

Through 160 works, it explores the many ways in which Black artists portrayed everyday modern life living in Harlem in the 1920s and '40s -- the early decades of the Great Migration when millions of Black people began to leave the segregated rural South.

Although the Met has collected and displayed African art in the past, it had never broached the subject of African-American culture, making this the first African-American-led movement of international modern art.

"This is an exhibition that basically expands our idea of art history, expands our idea of what has happened during that time and what we need to pay attention to," Met Director and CEO Max Hollein said.

Murrell says she hopes those that walk through the exhibit leave with a sense of pride and understanding of work that has gone unnoticed for so long.

"We have a void in the history of New York City and a void in the history of art, of American art and of international modernism, that we need to fill ... This can help to complete New Yorkers' sense of the history of the city," Murrell said.

The exhibition opens to the public on Sunday, Feb. 25, at the Met and will remain on display until July 28.

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