In MemoryDavid C. Driskell 1931–2020

David Driskell
David Driskell attending “An Evening with Danny Glover” at the museum
Photograph by Glenn Virgin, 2012

The National Museum of African Art is deeply saddened by the passing of David C. Driskell, internationally recognized artist, art historian, and long-standing supporter of our museum. A member of the museum’s advisory board (1979–2000), Dr. Driskell was a pioneer in the field of African American art history whose extraordinary impact on generations of practitioners, creatives, and scholars of African, African American and African diaspora art is unsurpassed.

His groundbreaking exhibition and publication Two Centuries of Black American Art is but one example of his pioneering scholarship that expanded our understanding of the prevalence of African sensibilities in American, Latin American, and European art. As an artist, intellect, and activist, Dr. Driskell held myriad community and institutional leadership positions that advanced the visual arts to include alternative creative practices. He championed an altogether new but restorative cultural revolution that captured and reflected not only the hot tenor of American race relations in the late 1960s and early 1970s, but also reclaimed and skillfully deployed the prowess of indigenous African artistry. As a teacher and administrator at Howard University and later the University of Maryland, he equipped successor generations with cultural pride, innovative technique, and a visual language through which to celebrate black cultural identity. Dr. Driskell’s work and artistry demonstrate masterful draftsmanship, exceptional intercultural competency, and unwavering commitment to public service. His full career spanned more than 60 years and is marked by forward facing achievements that continue to redefine the global art world today.

Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends and colleagues. Our lives are better for having known him.

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