February 7, 2020
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Opening of Black History Month Exhibit at the Capitol

TOP Governor Cuomo Announces Opening of Black...

Exhibit Honors Longtime Public Servant H. Carl McCall for his Integral Role in Creating the New York State Harlem Art Collection


First Time Works from the Harlem Collection are Displayed in the Capitol


Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the opening of the exhibit "Black History Month 2020: The New York State Harlem Art Collection" in the War Room, on the second floor of the New York State Capitol. The Black History Month exhibit features select pieces from the Harlem collection, which was created by the Harlem State Office Building Committee on Arts and Culture, a panel created and organized in the late 1970s by then-Senator H. Carl McCall. 

"This exhibit celebrates the artists whose work helped elevate New York as a beacon of the art world and chronicled this incredible period in our history that continues to have reverberation around the world," Governor Cuomo said. "As we celebrate black history month, I'm proud to have this world class collection on display at our great Capitol and I urge New Yorkers and visitors alike to take the opportunity to see it for themselves."

The Black History Month exhibit features works by artists such as Palmer Hayden, Barkley Hendricks, and Norman Lewis who 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 Hispanic artists, most of them working and living in New York. Information on the exhibit can be found here

Office of General Services Commissioner RoAnn Destito said, "The New York State Office of General Services is honored to be the stewards of the State's Harlem Art Collection and pleased to see works from the collection on display in our marvelous State Capitol. I join Governor Cuomo in observing Black History Month by applauding the leadership of public servants such as Carl McCall and celebrating the works of Harlem's community artists." 

Collection History

The Harlem State Office Building Committee on Arts and Culture was established in 1975 by McCall and included state and city leaders, as well as representatives of the Harlem business community. 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.

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 are 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 temporarily 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 continued in 2019, works were brought back to the Powell Building for the first of a series of rotating exhibits that features sections from the collection as well as works by contemporary Harlem artists. The second exhibit in this series, "Harlem Art Then and Now: A Celebration of Community and Contemporary Art," opened on February 7, 2020.

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