“Groovin’ High” by Faith Ringgold Credit: Image courtesy of Christie's

To celebrate the centennial of the Harlem Renaissance, City College Center for the Arts (CCCA) and Christie’s New York formed a silent art exhibition auction featuring 30 art pieces that embody the historical time period.

The exhibition, “100 Years of Harlem: Resonating Around the World” was curated by Omo Misha and is hosted by Christie’s at 20 Rockefeller Plaza, an auction house for art. With it being a silent auction, bidders can place their bids through Givergy, an online auction platform. Investors Bank is the presenting sponsor for the exhibition. About 30% of proceeds from the sales will go to the artists and the rest will go to City College Center for the
Arts’ Youth Arts Empowerment Program. The community-centered program provides free art workshops, performances and lectures to over 8,000 disadvantaged youth in Harlem.

“Reaching out to Christie’s and having them partner with us in this kind of exhibition and auction is just a perfect fit,” said Gregory Shanck, managing director of City College Center for the Arts. “It brings who we are downtown and broadens our perspective to a totally different audience.”

For this exhibition, curator Omo Misha sought to highlight local artists and those that have contributed to CCCA in the past. Part of the process in selecting artists involved CCCA’s auction committee reaching out to a web of quality artists in the community.

“Christie’s was also very involved in the process, providing feedback on the selections,” said Misha. “We are all working together for the first time so naturally it’s important for them to protect their brand, and fortunately we remained on the same page.”

Misha’s inspiration for selecting the centennial as the focal point for this exhibition lies within what she saw as a lack of celebration.

“That could have been due in part to COVID, but I wanted to highlight that we’ve experienced 100 years of Harlem and 100 years of creativity and building creative communities with the renaissance as a foundation for that,” said Misha. “I also hoped that the exhibition would show that the explosion of creative output didn’t stop there, it continued.”

While many of the works featured at Christie’s portray the story of Harlem, Misha said there is a particular piece that centers the meaning of the Harlem Renaissance.

“I would say it’s Faith Ringgold’s work, ‘Groovin’ High,’ which captures that spirit of performance, nightlife and entertainment of the renaissance,” said Misha, who also mentioned another piece of Ringgold’s, ‘The Quilting Bee at Arles’.”

“In general, the exhibition as a whole tells a complete story about not only where Harlem has been, but the diversity of Harlem today and the Black historical information and representations of the community.”

Leah Kutruff, chairperson of Christie’s Employee Initiative Group, said this is the first auction exhibition that “feels local.”

“We’re very excited about it, especially celebrating the centennial of the Harlem Renaissance, and the fact that it has a domino effect on so many art movements across the world,” said Kutruff.

“They’ve helped us all along the way, it’s been nothing but fantastic,” said Gregory Shanck. “The planning for this started about a year ago. This project came about because of the desire of the board of directors to do their annual project, their fundraiser, and they were looking into all kinds of options. This is the one that they strongly felt would be a really good win for everybody.”

Bidding is open until April 4 at 10:59 a.m. on the Givergy site. A webinar will be held March 31 discussing the centennial and the artists’ relations with the community, including a conversation moderated by Omo Misha.

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