When Jessica Stafford Davis launched the Agora Culture in 2013, she envisioned a platform that connects artists with a diverse array of new and experienced collectors. Now two years later, the Agora Culture is fulfilling that vision by introducing local and international artists to art enthusiasts through a wide variety of events and educational opportunities in Washington, D.C. and nationwide. The Agora Culture in collaboration with curator and writer Julie Chae debuted New York City based multi-disciplinary artist Elia Alba’s Supper Club at a private Art Salon and Artist Talk in Washington, D.C.
The Supper Club is a multi-faceted art project with over 60 contemporary visual artists of color including African-American, Latin American, African, South Asian and Caribbean artists and placing them into individual portraits and special intimate dinners, inspired by the Harlem 30s/40s, bringing together a cross-section of visual artists, critics, and scholars to discuss current issues of the day.
Art Salon View of Supper Club works
Art Salon View
The photographs frame each artist as celebrities and transform their identities into iconic, fantastical images. Each artist was given a moniker based on the artistic practice as a way to define him or her within the group. All of the artists who are friends of Albas came of age in New York City during the early 2000 and have grown to be some of the most widely known and successful artists of color in the contemporary art world. The series also serves as a historical record of these artists, documenting them for archival purposes.
“What I do with the monikers is think about who that artist is within the conversation,” said Alba. “Then I use the elements of their practice, not exactly what they do but my interpretation of that, and create a conceptual portrait of them.”
For example, Alba portrays artist Derrick Adams in a piece entitled Chairman of the Board. In addition to his art, Adams served as the curatorial director for Rush Arts Gallery founded by Daniel Simmons, older brother of Russell Simmons and Joseph “Rev Run” Simmons.
“Rush Arts Gallery introduced many of the artists here today,” explained Alba. “I feel like Derrick is the one who made so many careers. He even put his career as an artist on the backburner to do so. There’s something very powerful to say about that. This piece really eludes more to Derrick’s place as far as what he has done for the Black art community. I wanted to honor that in the photograph. We can go on and on about all the Black artists who went through Rush Arts first. I give him props for that, and that’s why he is the Chairman of the Board.”
Chairman of the Board, 2015, Digital C-print on archival paper, 20″x30″, Ed. of 6
Other artists featured at the Art Salon include recent MacArthur “Genius” Award winner LaToya Ruby Frazier (The Braddonian), Jacolby Satterwhite (The Body Electric), Hank Willias Thomas (The Professor), Juana Valdes (The Orihsa), Kalup Linzy (The Star), Saya Woolfalk (The Mythmaker), and Abigail DeVille (The Pulsar).
The Agora Culture and Chae also partnered with Alba to present one of her dinner series in which contemporary artists of color, scholars, art historians, curators, and collectors engage in meaningful conversation about art, life, politics and race. D.C. based artist and Agora artist Sheldon Scott, who facilitated the conversation on the evening’s topic, “Prospects of Race Relations Post Obama,” co-hosted the event.
Jessica Stafford Davis, Peggy Cooper Cafritz, Simone Leigh, and Uri McMillan
Over a family style meal prepared by Alba, the group discussions covered what their personal assessment of the President’s impact on communities of color during his administration, how has the administration’s performance measured against your expectations of policy and strategy that affect race relations, are we participating in anti-black racism when we insist the President do more for Black/African American populations, and what do we expect of Former President Obama in his post White House days and what issues would we expect him to address.
Brandi Thompson Summers, JoAnne Flores, Sheldon Scott, Ellington Robinson, Simone Leigh, Marlon Felix, and Julie Chae
View of Supper Club dinner on November 7, 2015 in Washington D.C.
Attendees included: Peggy Cooper Cafritz, founder of Duke Ellington School of the Arts and art collector, Henry Thaggert, attorney and art collector, Joanne Flores, head of special projects at Smithsonian, David Antonio Cruz, performance artist (included in Supper Club project), Juana Valdes, multi disciplinary artist and educator (included in Supper Club project, Carmen Ramos, curator of Smithsonian American Art Museum, Brandi Summers-Thompson Professor, Virginia Commonwealth University, Director of Institute on Race/Policy, Ellington Robinson, artist and educator, André Singleton artist and educator, Steven Alfred, Simone Leigh visual artist (included in Supper Club), Uri McMillian, Assistant Professor of English, African-American Studies, and Gender Studies at the University of California, Los Angeles.
Dinner Attendees: Julie Chae, Elia Alba, JoAnne Flores, Jessica Stafford Davis, Henry Thaggert, Juana Flores, Steven Alfred, Simone Leigh, David Antonio Cruz, Ellington Robinson, Carmen Ramos, Josh Franco, Uri McMillan, Lavanya Ramanathan, Brandi Thompson Summers, Sheldon Scott, André Singleton, and Jarvis DuBois