Painting by Detroit artist Tylonn Sawyer is first work purchased from Black art acquisition fund for DIA

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Tylonn Sawyer’s "White on White: Stone Mountain." - TYLONN SAWYER
  • Tylonn Sawyer
  • Tylonn Sawyer’s "White on White: Stone Mountain."

A painting by Detroit artist Tylonn Sawyer is the first work acquired by a fund established in 2020 to acquire African American art for the Detroit Institute of Arts' permanent collection.

The DIA's Founders Junior Council selected Sawyer's "White on White: Stone Mountain" as the first work acquired through the African-American Art Acquisition Fund. The 144-inch-by-60-inch painting depicts Black men in white suits reclining — albeit uncomfortably — on the Confederate monument Stone Mountain, a massive sculpture etched into a mountain near Atlanta.

"The Detroit Institute of Arts is proud to add to its collection Tylonn Sawyer's powerful painting, 'White on White: Stone Mountain,' completed in 2019," Valerie Mercer, curator and head of the DIA's Center for African American Art, said in a statement. "It focuses on the recent demand for the removal of Confederate monuments from public spaces in America. Tylonn's impressive imagery successfully evokes the anxiety of being Black in America. As a contemporary artist and activist, he often examines historical narratives and imagery to determine their role in what's happening in America today. We look forward to sharing this art with our visitors, to demonstrate the depth of intellectual and creative engagement in the work of Detroit's artists."

"It was one of my dreams to have a piece of art in the DIA, considering it's one of the best collections in the country and it’s right here in my hometown, Detroit, Michigan," Sawyer said in a statement. "It really feels like an honor to be chosen by a panel of people from my own city."

"Historically, Detroit has always been a global pipeline for Black artistic talent and progressive voices," said former FJC President Nathaniel Wallace in a statement. "Creating a fund that will live within the DIA's permanent collection, exposing generations of museum-goers to the richness and brilliant work of our Black Detroit artists, was paramount to the board and important for the culture."

In 2020, the FJC designated $250,000 for the purchase of African American art for the DIA's permanent collection.

The FJC says it will begin the search for the second artist and work to collect in 2022.

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