Curators brought everything from wedding gowns to lab coats for their entertaining presentations to earn votes for proposed acquisitions
ATLANTA, Dec. 11, 2023 — On Oct. 18, an enthusiastic crowd of art lovers attended the High Museum of Art’s Collectors Evening to support the acquisition of two new works for the museum’s collection. After entertaining presentations from the curators, “Danbala et Aida Laflambo Nègre Arc en Ciel File” (1995) by Haitian artist Myrlande Constant and a 2021 photograph, “Phoenix V,” by Noémie Goudal were chosen by voters as new acquisitions.
“This was a chance for our patrons to have a direct hand in the acquisition process, and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who was a part of the event,” said Rand Suffolk, director of the High. “We’re very excited to share these phenomenal works with Atlanta.”
Collectors Evening, established in 2010 to help the museum acquire artworks, invites guests to take an active role in choosing the next works to join the collection. At the event, guests enjoy a seated dinner, curatorial presentations for the proposed works and voting for their favorite choices. Since the inception of Collectors Evening, attendees have supported the acquisition of 73 artworks for the museum’s collection by such artists as Kehinde Wiley, Donald Locke, Nandipha Mntambo, Vik Muniz, Shirin Neshat, Lonnie Holley and more.
“The works acquired reflect both the diverse nature of the High’s collections and our deliberate strategy to build upon our international connections to reflect a spectrum of artists, media and approaches to visual creativity,” noted Kevin Tucker, the High’s chief curator.
More information about this year’s acquisitions is below:
Folk and Self-Taught Art
Myrlande Constant was raised in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, and followed in her mother’s footsteps to become a professional seamstress. In the early 1990s, she recognized the commercial viability of Vodou flags, which were traditionally made by men, while women worked in textile factories as she and her mother had done. Constant became the first woman flag maker with a successful atelier, breaking that gender barrier by combining her professional seamstress skills with knowledge she gained from her father, who was a Vodou priest. While Vodou flags had been traditionally made mostly with sequins, Constant distinguished herself by using round and flat beads to create compositions that are unique in their intricacy and pictorial depth. Today she is one of the most highly regarded and discussed self-taught artists in the world, especially after 2022, when her drapo were exhibited in Cecilia Alemani’s critically acclaimed “Milk of Dreams” exhibition at the Venice Biennale. With her 2023 exhibition “Myrlande Constant: The Work of Radiance” at the Fowler Museum at UCLA, Constant also became the first Haitian woman to have a solo exhibition in the United States.
In “Danbala et Aida Laflambo Nègre Arc en Ciel File” (1995), Constant depicts the husband-and-wife Haitian creation spirits Danbala and Ayida Wèdo (Aida) with serpentine tails with which they shaped the hills and valleys on earth. Vodou, which remains one of the two official religions of Haiti, is a syncretic belief system that combines European Catholicism, pan-African religions and Indigenous belief systems that collided on the island during the height of the slave trade in the 18th century. Vodou flags have striking relationships with military and Catholic banners, and they display a complex ecosystem of spirits, or Iwa. Flags were initially used only in temples as embodied portals that allowed Iwa to be present, but by the mid-20th century, tourists traveling to the country began to widely collect these ornate, handsewn objects.
Although Danbala’s image as a snake is pervasive throughout Haitian art, Aida is less commonly represented and more typically appears in a supporting role. By highlighting Aida as her primary subject in the work, Constant mirrors her own empowered position as an innovator and the first woman artist to be recognized as a master flag maker. As the title indicates, Constant also takes artistic liberty to present Aida as a spirited, “fiery” Black woman (“laflambo nègre”), surrounding her with glowing golden bugle beads that accentuate her power.
“Danbala et Aida Laflambo Nègre Arc en Ciel File” marks Constant’s fourth work to enter the High’s collection.
Across photography, video, sculpture and performance, French artist Noémie Goudal uses various kinds of optical illusions and visual phenomena to challenge our perception of the world and our limits of understanding how various systems of the natural world function. Her work is driven by an interest in ideas about “deep time” (geological history of the planet) and paleoclimatology (the study of past climates). “Phoenix V” is part of her larger series “Post Atlantica,” which considers the former continent that split apart 2 billion years ago into what is now South America and Africa.
The photograph is a study of a particular kind of palm tree, the Phoenix atlantica, that grows on both sides of the Atlantic in parts of Africa and South America. To create the photograph, Goudal arranged strips of photographic prints of the palms from one continent in front of the physical palms from the other continent and rephotographed the scene. The resulting image visually interweaves the two continents together while creating a glitchy, kaleidoscopic view meant to unsettle our sense of the stability and constancy of the world.
Based in Paris, Goudal earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in graphic design from Central Saint Martins and a Master of Arts degree in photography from the Royal College of Art, both in London. She has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions, including those held at Foam Amsterdam, the Hasselblad Foundation, Les Rencontres d’Arles, The Photographers’ Gallery London and the Finnish Museum of Photography. Her performance piece “ANIMA” has been staged at Tate Modern, the Venice Theatre Biennial, Festival d’Avignon and MoMA PS1. Her work is held in numerous European public collections including Centre Pompidou, Foam Amsterdam and Fotomuseum Winterthur, and her installation “Giant Phoenix” was the centerpiece of the recently opened Photography Center at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.
“Phoenix V” is the first of Goudal’s works to be acquired by an American museum.
About the High Museum of Art
Located in the heart of Atlanta, the High Museum of Art connects with audiences from across the Southeast and around the world through its distinguished collection, dynamic schedule of special exhibitions and engaging community-focused programs. Housed within facilities designed by Pritzker Prize-winning architects Richard Meier and Renzo Piano, the High features a collection of more than 19,000 works of art, including an extensive anthology of 19th- and 20th-century American fine and decorative arts; major holdings of photography and folk and self-taught work, especially that of artists from the American South; burgeoning collections of modern and contemporary art, including paintings, sculpture, new media and design; a growing collection of African art, with work dating from prehistory through the present; and significant holdings of European paintings and works on paper. The High is dedicated to reflecting the diversity of its communities and offering a variety of exhibitions and educational programs that engage visitors with the world of art, the lives of artists and the creative process. For more information about the High, visit www.high.org.
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