Discovering Types of Art at Charleston's International African American Museum

Discovering Types of Art at Charleston's International African American Museum

The recently opened Charleston's International African American Museum is a beacon of cultural heritage. Join us as we uncover the diverse array of types of art on display, exploring the marterpieces that grace this esteemed institution.

Gadsden’s Wharf in Charleston, South Carolina was once a teeming trading port for enslaved Africans to set foot onto North America, in a time where slavery and racial apartheid were not even questioned in American culture. Now that everything has changed, this site pays homage to the African American history of struggle, resistance, and resilience through various types of art hosted at Charleston's International African American Museum.

The anticipation surrounding the grand opening of Charleston's International African American Museum (IAAM) in June 2023 has finally met its crescendo. A cultural landmark, this museum stands as a testament to the strength, hard work, and legacy of African Americans throughout history.

The museum seamlessly intertwines history and art, offering visitors a unique lens through which to view the past. The curated collection spans centuries, showcasing the evolution of artistic expressions within the Black community. 

From vivid paintings to thought-provoking sculptures, each piece contributes to the narrative, inviting you to ponder and appreciate the depths of cultural significance. As fine art collectors and enthusiasts looking to explore the depths of cultural and social history, this journey through various exhibits and installations will be exactly what you need.

Narrating History Through Fine Art

The International African American Museum is a testament to the often overlooked narratives within the Black community journey, from the time when Africans from diverse cultures arrived at the United States through Gadsden’s Wharf, to the present day. Nearly 50% of the entire African American population walked through this site, so it was only a matter of time before it received its deserved recognition.

The architectural challenge for the designers was to build over this hallowed ground without physically occupying it. Crafted by the visionary architect Henry Cobb, IAAM rises above the earth on 18 pillars, symbolically honoring the spirits of the once-enslaved individuals who tread upon this soil. 


Types of Art: Charleston's International African American Museum


Beneath the elevated construction lie two contemplative spaces envisioned by the acclaimed landscape designer and MacArthur Fellow, Walter Hood. One, a sculpted "Tide Tribute," commemorates the passage of enslaved Africans through Gadsden’s Wharf. The other, an ethnobotanical "African Ancestors Memorial Garden," flourishes with native plants from West Africa, the Caribbean, and the Lowcountry of South Carolina.


Exploring Different Types of Art Pieces at IAAM

Spanning 100,000 square feet, the interior of the building houses nine exhibition areas, showcasing a collection of approximately 700 artifacts, nearly all of which are on public display. These treasures include moving relics such as slave shackles and historic Mardi Gras attire, as well as artistry from luminaries like Jacob Lawrence, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems, among other renowned creators.


By showcasing a diverse range of art forms, the museum cultivates appreciation and awareness, contributing to the global dialogue on the significance of diversity in the art world. Let’s go over the main types of art founded throughout its journey:


Sculptures and Installations

For those captivated by the tangible and three-dimensional, the museum features a striking collection of sculptures and installations. You will find a wide range of artworks, from original or crafted historical elements and large video screens spanning centuries of history, to multimedia real-sized settings eluding traditional places and habits of the Black community, like praying houses and gospel chapels.


Crafted by skilled artists and designed by professional audiovisual engineers, these pieces transcend the boundaries of conventional art, inviting you to engage with the narratives through your senses. 


Fine Art Pieces at the International African American Museum


Traditional Fine Arts

The collection boasts an impressive array of paintings, depicting historical events, cultural celebrations, and personal stories. These fine art pieces, characterized by meticulous brushstrokes and vivid colors, serve as windows into the emotions and experiences of African Americans across generations.


Architectural Designs

The museum’s structure serves as a poignant memorial, fulfilling a long-awaited presence on this historic ground. Beyond being a repository of art, it plays a crucial role in bridging cultural gaps and fostering a deeper understanding of the African American experience.


The ancestral garden designed in the land that was once Gadsden’s Wharf is one of the most striking attributes of this museum. Black granite walls now stand on the grounds where a storage house once stood—a haunting space where enslaved individuals, stooped in suffering, faced their demise while awaiting transport to the slave market. These walls bear poignant lines from Maya Angelou’s empowering poem, “And Still I Rise,” etched as a tribute to their resilience and enduring spirit.


A Tapestry of Cultural Significance

Charleston's International African American Museum welcomes art enthusiasts throughout the week, offering an enriching experience every day. As fine art collectors and enthusiasts, your journey through the types of art presented in this museum promises to be both enlightening and enriching.


The Art Dome brings you closer to the best places of cultural heritage and artistic expressions that transcend time.

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