Happening December 7: Artist Talk with Bisa Butler

Join Us Monday, December 7, 2020


Join us for a lively conversation between Swann Director of African American Art, Nigel Freeman, and the artist Bisa Butler, whose recent exhibitions and exceptional body of work make her one of the most exciting young artists to gain prominence in the last few years.

Bisa Butler, detail from I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings, cotton, silk, wool and velvet, quilted and appliquéd, (50” x 129”), 2019. Photo courtesy of Claire Oliver Gallery, Collection of the Minneapolis Museum of Art.

About the Speakers

Bisa Butler

Formally trained, Bisa Butler graduated Cum Laude from Howard University with a Bachelor’s in Fine Art degree. It was during her education at Howard that Butler was able to refine her natural talents under the tutelage of lecturers such as Lois Mailou Jones, Elizabeth Catlett, Jeff Donaldson and Ernie Barnes. Butler then went on to earn a Masters in Art from Montclair State University in 2005. While in the process of obtaining her Masters degree Butler took a Fiber Arts class where she had an artistic epiphany and she finally realized how to express her art. “As a child, I was always watching my mother and grandmother sew, and they taught me. After that class, I made a portrait quilt for my grandmother on her deathbed, and I have been making art quilts  ever since.”

Bisa Butler was a high school art teacher for 10 years in the Newark Public Schools and 3 years at Columbia High School in Maplewood, New Jersey. Butler’s work is currently the focus of a solo exhibition at the Art Institute of Chicago, the second stop of a traveling exhibit which began at the Katonah Museum of Art. The Toledo Museum of Art is also currently exhibiting Butler’s work in a group show. She is represented by the Claire Oliver Gallery of New York. Butler’s work has been acquired by many private and public collections including The Art Institute of Chicago, The Museum of Fine Arts Boston, The Nelson-Adkins Museum, The Kemper Museum of Art, The Orlando Museum of Art, The Newark Museum, The Toledo Museum of Art and the Minneapolis Institute of Art.

Photo by Bolu Gbadebo.

Nigel Freeman

Nigel Freeman is the director of the African-American Fine Art department at Swann Auction Galleries. He founded the department in the fall of 2006, and since then has set numerous auction records for important African-American artists, including John Biggers, Elizabeth Catlett, Beauford Delaney, Sargent Johnson, Hughie Lee-Smith, Faith Ringgold and Carrie Mae Weems. Many were the result of significant institutional purchases. The department has also held the single-owner auctions of the estate of Dr. Maya Angelou and the collections of the Golden State Mutual Life Insurance Company and the Johnson Publishing Company, Swann’s first white glove auction. Swann is the only major auction house with a department dedicated to African-American Fine Art.

Outside of Swann, Nigel is a print appraiser on the PBS television show Antiques Roadshow. He has lectured on the subject of African-American art at the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Rhode Island School of Design Museum, the Studio Museum in Harlem and the South Side Community Art Center in Chicago. He has also been interviewed by such magazines as The New Yorker, The Wall Street Journal, Art+Auction, Art and Antiques, The Art Newspaper and on the BBC and National Public Radio.

Bisa Butler, detail from Africa The Land of Hope and Promise, cotton, silk, wool and velvet, quilted and appliquéd, (52” x 88”), 2020. Photo courtesy of the Claire Oliver Gallery. Private collection.

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