Most of the art in this special installation derives from the Evans-Tibbs Collection, a group of 32 paintings, sculptures, and works on paper by African American artists that Thurlow Evans Tibbs, Jr., (1952–1997) bequeathed to the Corcoran Gallery of Art in 1996. Following the closing of the Corcoran in 2014, the collection (supplemented by one partial gift from Tibbs and 11 works donated in his memory) entered the National Gallery of Art, along with an important archive that Tibbs assembled to document the history of black artists and their work in the United States.

A tireless art dealer, collector, and promoter as well as grandson of the opera star known as Madame Lillian Evanti, Tibbs acquired more than 600 works during his short life. While the Evans-Tibbs Collection ranges from the 1890s to the 1990s, this selection focuses on art from the mid-twentieth century. Even this small grouping reveals the great variety of subjects, styles, and positions that African American artists staked out, often against the odds, within the history of modernism. With this display, the National Gallery of Art continues the work of the Corcoran in advancing Tibbs’s legacy.

The installation is curated by Harry Cooper, senior curator of modern art, National Gallery of Art.