Skip to Main Content

Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project

September 12, 2018 – April 22, 2019
West Building, Ground Floor - Gallery 22, 22A

Dawoud Bey, Mary Parker and Caela Cowan, 2012, 2 inkjet prints mounted to dibond, overall: 101.6 x 162.56 cm (40 x 64 in.), National Gallery of Art, Washington, Gift of the Collectors Committee and the Alfred H. Moses and Fern M. Schad Fund

This exhibition is no longer on view at the National Gallery.

For more than 40 years photographer Dawoud Bey (b. 1953) has portrayed American youth and those from marginalized communities with sensitivity and complexity. Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project marks the National Gallery of Art's recent acquisition of four large-scale photographs and one video from Bey's series, The Birmingham Project, a tribute to the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. Coinciding with the 55th anniversary of this tragedy, the exhibition focuses on how Bey visualizes the past through the lens of the present, pushing the boundaries of portraiture and engaging ongoing national issues of racism, violence against African Americans, and terrorism in churches.

On September 15, 1963, four girls were killed in the dynamiting of the church, and two teenaged boys were murdered in racially motivated violence. Each of Bey’s diptychs combines one portrait of a young person the same age as one of the victims, and another of an adult 50 years older—the child's age had she or he survived. Alongside these photographs, the exhibition features Bey's video 9.15.63. This split-screen projection juxtaposes a re-creation of the drive to the 16th Street Baptist Church, taken from the vantage point of a young child in the backseat, with slow pans that move through everyday spaces (beauty parlor, barbershop, lunch counter, and schoolroom) as they might have appeared that Sunday morning. Devoid of people, these views poeticize the innocent lives ripped apart by violence.

This exhibition is curated by Kara Fiedorek, Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Curatorial Fellow in the department of photographs, National Gallery of Art, Washington.

Organization: Organized by the National Gallery of Art, Washington

Passes: Admission is always free and passes are not required

Attendance: 77,799

Bey, Dawoud
American, 1953 -

Lectures and Book Signings
John Edmonds
September 23 at 2:00
East Building Auditorium

Arnold Newman Lecture Series on Photography
Dawoud Bey
December 16 at 2:00
East Building Auditorium

Arnold Newman Lecture Series on Photography: Dawoud Bey
Video, Released: February 26, 2019, (69:17 minutes)
Arnold Newman Lecture Series on Photography: Dawoud Bey
Audio, Released: February 26, 2019, (69:17 minutes)
Interview with Dawoud Bey
Video, Released: September 12, 2018, (11:11 minutes)
Press Event: Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project
Audio, Released: September 11, 2018, (31:11 minutes)