October 24, 2019
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces New Exhibit, "Harlem Roots," to Showcase New York State Harlem Art Collection for the First Time in More Than 20 Years

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces New Exhibit, "...

Harlem Art Collection Restored After Water Damage and Made Ready for Public Display

Free Exhibit will be Open to the Public Beginning November 15


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced a new exhibit, "Harlem Roots," will open later this month in the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building, marking the return of the New York State Harlem Art Collection to the public for the first time since the mid-1990s. The exhibit features select pieces from a collection by artists who have made significant contributions within their communities and the art world at-large. These artists helped elevate what was coined "community art" to what is now considered some of the finest American art created in the 20th century by predominantly Black and Latino artists working in New York City. More information on the exhibit can be found here.


"Recognizing Harlem for its rich cultural history and the influence artists and their art have in this vibrant community, New York State is pleased to return the Harlem Art Collection to its public place at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building," Governor Cuomo said. "This exhibit celebrates the artists whose work helped elevate New York as a beacon of the art world and will serve as a tribute to their incredible contributions to the art community at-large."


"We are proud of our rich culture and diversity in New York, and this new exhibit will highlight the great work of 20th century Black and Latino artists," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The 'Harlem Roots' artwork will celebrate our community strengths and promote inclusiveness among all New Yorkers. I encourage residents and visitors to visit the exhibit and see it firsthand at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building in New York City."


The "Harlem Roots" exhibit will be unveiled at a preview reception open to the public on October 30 in the Powell Building's second-floor Art Gallery and Community Room. Beginning November 15, the free exhibit will be on view to the public from noon to 7 p.m. each Friday. The building is located at 163 West 125th Street.


The New York State Harlem Art Collection was conceived in 1976 to draw the public's attention to art that celebrated the contributions of the Harlem art community. Then Senator H. Carl McCall established a Harlem State Office Building Committee on Arts and Culture in 1975, which included State and City leaders, as well as representatives of the Harlem business community.


Based on the committee's recommendations, the State amassed a collection of more than 100 pieces of art, including paintings, sculptures, photographs, prints, and mixed-media, by 65 artists. Several of these artists are now considered major contributors to the history of American art with works that can be found in MoMA, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the National Museum of African American History & Culture, the Tate Modern and as part of major national and international exhibitions.


The "Harlem Roots" exhibit features works by artists in the collection, such as Jacob Lawrence, Roy DeCarava, Palmer Hayden and Elizabeth Catlett. The public can expect to see additional pieces, such as painter Barkley Hendricks' Lamont on the Case, in future exhibits, which will display art from the collection on a revolving basis over the next year.


Collection History


In 1977, the Harlem State Office Building Committee on Arts and Culture held a ceremony to announce works chosen for the Harlem Art Collection. The following year, an exhibition, "Selections from the Harlem State Office Building" opened and included many of the newly purchased artwork, including Masquerade by Jacob Lawrence.


Throughout the 1980s, art from the collection was exhibited regularly, interspersed with special exhibitions in the building, which was renamed the "Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building" in 1983.


In the mid-1990s, most of the collection was moved into storage in the basement of the building to make way for exhibits of works by local contemporary artists and student artists in the community.


Several pieces of the Harlem Art Collection experienced water damage in 2006 when broken pipes caused flooding in the basement. The collection was then moved to the building's 13th floor storage area where it remained in poor condition and hidden from public view for five years.


The collection was rediscovered when renovations were being planned for the 13th floor, and the art was temporary relocated to Albany in 2012 to assess the condition of the artwork. Individual pieces that required specialized attention were sent out for conservation repairs, cleaning and restoration.


As conservation of the collection continues in 2019, works will be brought back to the Powell Building for "Harlem Roots" and future exhibits.


Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, "Governor Cuomo has made it a priority for State agencies to make the best use of public spaces, and our recent renovation of the New York State Harlem Art Gallery and Community Room in the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building provided us with a wonderful space to, once again, make this important art collection available to art and history lovers alike. The exhibit 'Harlem Roots' is the first of several exhibits that will feature pieces from the collection on a revolving basis over the next year."


Senator Robert Jackson said, "I'm excited for these artworks to be back on public display. They are not just strong contributions to Black art; the work of these artists has been influential to the entire art world in the U.S. and beyond. Their now-celebrated innovations in style and subject derive from their experiences as Black people in New York, but they speak to all of us. Now they will be back on exhibit in the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building where New Yorkers of all stripes can take in their greatness in a public space."


Senator Brian A. Benjamin said, "Harlem has always been a center for art and artists, and I am glad that the office building that constituents come to visit me and my colleagues on 125th Street will now feature some of the works created by Harlem's finest creative minds. It was one of the former holders of my office, Carl McCall, who established the Harlem State Office Building Committee on Arts and Culture, which helped put together this collection. I am proud to be serving in his seat during its return."


Assemblymember Inez E. Dickens said, "In 1975, former State Senator Carl McCall established a Harlem State Office Building Committee on Arts and Culture to celebrate the meaningful and historical significance of a community and its people whom over time has dedicated so much to the Great State of New York. Today, the Harlem State office is proud to welcome the dedication of "Harlem Roots" exhibit. These fantastic pieces were the expressive works of artist primarily based in the Harlem Community. Let us join together in understanding what these artisans have shared through their consciously awakened eye."


Assemblymember Al Taylor said, "Art and culture are a vital part of Harlem's history and identity. I'm thrilled the people of Harlem, New York City, and the public at large will once again have the opportunity to see and interact with this amazing art collection for free at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building. After over 20 years away this homecoming is especially timely as we celebrate the 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance and over a century of groundbreaking artistic excellence in our community."


Assemblymember Robert J. Rodriguez said, "Art conveys and suspends in time the world around from where it was once created. For Harlem, the rich cultural and political significance it has contributed to New York and to the country has been remarkably expressed through art. Now, restored, the same works that brought joy to its contemporaries can once again enrich our lives today. I'm grateful, and I look forward to the public display of Harlem Roots."


Connie H. Choi, Associate Curator, The Studio Museum in Harlem, said, "We are excited that works from the New York State Harlem Art Collection are returning to public view at the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building. The Collection contains pieces by some of the most important artists of the twentieth century, and it's wonderful that they will once again be publicly accessible."


Contact the Governor's Press Office
Contact the Governor's Press Office