Public Program

In Dialogue: Unraveling a Tapestry of Africa

Dr. Alvia J. Wardlaw, Professor and Director of the University Museum at Texas Southern University, and Paul R. Davis, Curator of Collections at the Menil Collection, explore the iconography of a mid-18th-century European tapestry’s representation of Africa. The tapestry’s imagery conveys the histories connecting Europe, Africa, and the Americas.

The work was added to the Menil’s permanent collection in the 1980s as part of the Image of the Black in Western Art, a research project and series of publications that investigates how people of African descent have been represented in art throughout history. The project was started by John and Dominique de Menil in 1960 and has been continued through the collaboration of Harvard University Press and the W.E.B. Du Bois Research Institute at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research.

The live event will stream directly on this page and on the Menil’s YouTube channel on Wednesday, September 9, at 6 p.m. CDT. No login or RSVP is required. You are invited to submit your questions for the speakers in advance and during the program to programs@menil.org.

About the speakers:

A resident of Third Ward since the age of four, Alvia J. Wardlaw, Ph.D., graduated from Jack Yates Senior High School. Wardlaw is a leading scholar of artist John Biggers’s career. Professor of art history and Director/Curator of the University Museum at Texas Southern University, Wardlaw has held curatorial positions at the Dallas Museum of Art and the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. She has curated and co-curated over 80 exhibitions, including Black Art—Ancestral Legacy: the African Impulse in African American Art,1989, The Art of John Biggers: View from the Upper Room, 1995, Something All Our Own: The Grant Hill Collection of African American Art, 2003, The Quilts of Gee’s Bend, 2005, J’aime Cheri Samba, 2005, and Houston Collects: African American Art, 2008. In recognition of Wardlaw’s long career of community service, mentorship, and art historical scholarship, she has been inducted into the Texas Women’s Hall of Fame and, in 2017, she received the John Fleming Lifetime Achievement Award by the Association of African American Museums.

Paul R. Davis, Ph.D., is Curator of Collections at the Menil Collection and oversees the museum’s holdings of art from Africa, Pacific Islands, the Americas, the ancient world, and pre-1900 Europe. His research focuses on the visual arts and cultures of French-speaking West Africa between the 18th and 21st centuries. His recent exhibition projects include ReCollecting Dogon, February 3–July 9, 2017, Mapa Wiya: Your Map’s Not Needed, September 13, 2019–February 2, 2020, as well as installations of the permanent collection galleries for the reopening of the Menil in September 2018.

About the series:

In Dialogue is the Menil Collection’s series of live, online conversations. Menil curators are joined by notable scholars, artists, and art professionals for engaging discussions about the museum’s collection, current exhibitions, and ideas shaping contemporary discourses about art. All programs are free and open to everyone.