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Benny Andrews (1930-2006)

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There Must Be a Heaven, 1966
oil on canvas
38 x 23 1/2 inches, signed and dated

Liberty #6 (Study for Trash), 1971
oil on canvas with painted fabric collage
78" x 39 3/4" x 1/4", signed and dated

Circle Study #10, 1972
oil on canvas with painted fabric collage
48" x 42" x 1/4", signed and dated

Sexism Study #15, 1973
oil on linen
27 1/2" x 25", signed and dated

Sexism Study #24, 1973
oil on canvas with painted fabric collage and rope
96" x 50 1/2" x 2", signed and dated

Poverty (Study #1-A for War), 1974
oil on linen with painted fabric collage with rope
100" x 48" x 2", signed and dated

Here Comes the Wind, 1980

gouache, ink, wash, paper and canvas collage on paper

28 1/2" x 22 1/2", signed and dated

Sorrow, 1990

oil, fabric, and paper collage with ink on paper
39 3/4" x 26 1/8", signed and dated

Baptist Heaven (Human Spirit Series), 2000
oil on three joined canvases with painted fabric collage
98" x 72" x 1/2", signed and dated

Education Quest #1 (Migrant Series), 2004
oil on paper with painted fabric collage
30" x 22 1/2" x 1/8", signed and dated


New & Noteworthy

Time Out Magazine, October 19-25, 2016

Gallery Guide

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Traditional Home, October 2016

by Judith Dobrzynski

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Benny Andrews: The Bicentennial Series

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ArtNews, May 2012

by Mona Molarsky

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International Review of African American Art, 2010

by Pellom McDaniels III

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The Boston Globe, November 6, 1994

by Nancy Stapen

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American Artist, March 1981

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Black Emergency Cultural Coalition, 1980

by Benny Andrews

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St. Louis Post Dispatch, June 9, 1976

by Patricia Rice

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Art Workers News, Feb-March 1976

by Benny Andrews

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Amsterdam News, January 31, 1976

by Stephanie Bell

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Art Material Trade News, June 1973

by Benny Andrews

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Prints & Publications

Artist Information

“I don’t really think that art really does that much in terms of any kind of social change. . . . I think it always remains a selfish outlet for the individual. And even though they’ve thought up kinda nice words for people who try to be creative, the truth is, that if you try to be creative, you really have to be a very selfish, ego-centered person who has this ego to believe that if you do an apple it will convey something that the millions of people who paint apples all the time do not.”[1]

Benny Andrews (1930-2006) was born in rural Georgia and devoted his career to championing African Americans and their stories. In 1948, Andrews graduated from high school and with a 4-H Club scholarship enrolled in Georgia’s Fort Valley State College. He joined the United States Air Force, served in the Korean War, and attained the rank of staff sergeant before receiving an honorable discharge in 1954. With funding from the GI Bill, Andrews enrolled at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. In 1958, he completed his bachelor of fine arts degree and moved to New York City.

In New York, Andrews lived on Suffolk Street, befriended other Lower East Side figurative expressionists that included Red Grooms, Bob Thompson, Lester Johnson and Nam June Paik, and continued to develop his “rough collage” technique that often combined rugged scraps of paper and cloth with paint on canvas. As Andrews explained, “I started working with collage because I found oil paint so sophisticated, and I didn’t want to lose my sense of rawness.” By the 1960s, Andrews mastered this technique, and in 1962, Bella Fishko invited Andrews to become a member of Forum Gallery, which gave him his first New York solo exhibition. Additional solo exhibitions followed there in 1964 and 1966. In 1965, with funding from a John Hay Whitney Fellowship, Andrews traveled home to Georgia and began working on his Autobiographical Series. In 1971, The Studio Museum in Harlem presented the first works completed of The Bicentennial Series. In 1975, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta presented four subseries from The Bicentennial Series; the exhibition traveled to the Herbert F. Johnson Museum in Ithaca, NY and the National Center of Afro-American Artists in Boston.


A self-described “people’s painter,” Andrews focused on figurative social commentary depicting the struggles, atrocities, and everyday occurrences in the world, but he was not satisfied to use art as a substitute for action. In 1968, he began a career at Queens College, City University of New York, where he was part of the college’s SEEK (Search for Education, Elevation and Knowledge) program, designed to help students from underserved areas prepare for college. In 1969, he became a founding member of the Black Emergency Cultural Coalition (BECC), which formed coalitions with other artists’ groups, protested the exclusion of women and men of color from institutional and historical canons, and advocated for greater representation of black artists, curators, and intellectuals within major museums. Together with Jay Milder, Peter Passuntino, Nicholas Sperakis, Peter Dean, Michael Fauerbach, Bill Barrell, Leonel Gongora, and Ken Bowman, Andrews participates in the founding of the Rhino Horn Group. In 1971, the art classes Andrews had been teaching at the Manhattan Detention Complex (“the Tombs”) became the cornerstone of a major prison art program initiated under the auspices of the BECC that expanded across the country. In 1976, he became the art coordinator for the Inner City Roundtable of Youths (ICRY)—an organization comprised of gang members in the New York metropolitan area who seek to combat youth violence by strengthening urban communities. From 1982 to 1984, he directed the Visual Arts Program, a division of the National Endowment for the Arts (1982-84), and in 1997, Andrews became a member of the National Academy of Design. Shortly before his death in 2006, Andrews was working on a project in the Gulf Coast with children displaced by Hurricane Katrina. In 2002, the Benny Andrews Foundation was established to help emerging artists gain greater recognition and to encourage artists to donate their work to historically black museums. Andrews work is represented in over fifty public collections including the Detroit Institute of Arts, The Metropolitan Museum of Art (NY), The Museum of Modern Art (NY), Smithsonian American Art Museum (Washington, DC), The Studio Museum in Harlem (NY), and the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art (Hartford, CT).

In 2008, Michael Rosenfeld Gallery became the representative of the Benny Andrews Estate and in 2013 presented Benny Andrews: There Must Be A Heaven, the first comprehensive retrospective since the artist’s death. Most recently, the gallery presented Benny Andrews: The Bicentennial Series, including paintings and drawings completed between 1970 and 1975 and representing six individual subseries – Symbols, Trash, Circle, Sexism, War and Utopia – which in their totality comprise The Bicentennial Series. The exhibition is accompanied by a fully illustrated color catalogue with an essay by Pellom McDaniels III, Ph.D., Curator of African American collections in the Stuart A. Rose Manuscripts, Archives and Rare Books Library at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. 


Southern Accent: Seeking the American South in Contemporary Art
Speed Art Museum, Louisville, KY
April 30 –October 14, 2017

1967: Parallels in Black Art and Rebellion
Charles Wright Museum of African American History, Detroit, MI
June 1, 2017– August 30, 2018

Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power
Tate Modern, London, England
July 12 - October 22, 2017

Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art, Bentonville, AR
February 2 – April 23, 2018

Brooklyn Museum of Art, Brooklyn, NY
September 7, 2018 – February 3, 2019

Picturing Mississippi, 1817-2017: Land of Plenty, Pain and Promise
Mississippi Museum of Art, Jackson, MS
December 9, 2017- July 8, 2018

Telling a People’s Story: African-American Children’s Illustrated Literature
Miami University Art Museum, Oxford, OH
January 30 – June 30, 2018 


Albany Museum of Art, Albany, GA
Allen University, Columbia, SC
Arkansas Arts Center, Little Rock, AK
Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, IL
Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, Pine Bluff, AK
Bennett College, Greensboro, NC
Birmingham Museum of Art, Birmingham, AL
Brooklyn Museum, Brooklyn, NY
The Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, OH
Michael C. Carlos Museum, Emory University, Atlanta, GA
The Columbus Museum, Columbus, GA
Chrysler Museum of Art, Norfolk, VA
David C. Driskell Center, University of Maryland, College Park, MD
Detroit Institute of Arts, Detroit, MI
Georgia Museum of Art, Athens GA
Gibbes Museum of Art, Charleston, SC
Grey Art Gallery, New York University, New York, NY
Guilford College Art Gallery, Greensboro, NC
The Harvey B. Gantt Center for African American Arts & Culture, Charlotte, NC
Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca, NY
High Museum of Art, Atlanta, GA
Hirschhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Hofstra University Museum, Hempstead, NY
Hood Museum of Art, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH
Housatonic Museum of Art, Housatonic Community College, Bridgeport, CT
Hunter Museum of American Art, Chattanooga, TN
James E. Lewis Museum of Art, Morgan State University, Baltimore, MD
The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, Sarasota, FL
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha, NE
Lane College, Jackson, TN
LeMoyne-Owen College, Memphis, TN
Maier Museum of Art, Randolph College, Lynchburg, VA
Memphis Brooks Museum of Art, Memphis, TN
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY
Miles College, Fairfield, AL
Mobile Museum of Art, Mobile, AL
Morris Museum of Art, Augusta, GA
The Museum of African American Art, Los Angeles, CA
The Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, Atlanta, GA
Museum Overholland, Amsterdam, Netherlands
Museum of Contemporary Art, La Jolla, CA
Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, MA
Museum of Modern Art, New York, NY
National Academy Museum, New York, NY
National Museum of African Art, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC
Newark Museum, Newark, NJ
New Jersey State Museum, Trenton, NJ
Ogden Museum of Southern Art, University of New Orleans, New Orleans, LA
Ohara Museum of Art, Kurashiki, Japan
Ohio University Art Gallery, Columbus, OH
The Palm Springs Museum of Art, Palm Springs, CA
Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, Philadelphia, PA
Philander Smith College, Little Rock, AR
The Rockwell Museum, Corning, NY
Rust College, Holly Springs, MS
San Jose Museum of Art, San Jose, CA
Slater Memorial Museum, Norwich Free Academy, Norwich, CT
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC
Spencer Museum of Art, University of Kansas, Lawrence, KS
Stillman College, Tuscaloosa, AL
The Studio Museum in Harlem, New York, NY
Talladega College, Talladega, AL
Texas College, Tyler, TX
Tougaloo College Art Collection, Tougaloo, MS
The Tubman African American Art Museum, Macon, GA
Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, AL
Ulrich Museum of Art, Wichita State University, Wichita, KS
University of Wyoming Art Museum, Laramie, WY
Voorhees College, Denmark, SC
Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art, Hartford, CT
Wichita Art Museum, Wichita, KS
William Benton Museum of Art
Zora Neal Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts, Orlando, FL

John Hay Whitney Fellowship

New York Council on the Arts Fellowships

MacDowell Colony Fellowships, 1975-78

National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship

O'Hara Museum Prize, Tokyo, Japan

Bellagio Study and Conference Center Fellowship, Rockefeller Foundation, Bellagio, Italy
President's Research Award, Queen's College

Member, National Academy of Design, New York, NY

President’s Award to The Benny Andrews Foundation, United Negro College Fund, Fairfax, VA



Biographical Note

Benny Andrews, African American painter and collage artist, was born November 13, 1930 in Madison, Georgia. He was the second of a family of ten children of George and Viola (Perryman) Andrews, sharecroppers. He married Mary Ellen Smith in 1957 (divorced 1976), two sons and one daughter; married Nene Humphrey, 1986. He served in the United States Air Force as a staff sergeant from 1950-1954. He attended Fort Valley State College (Georgia) from 1948-1950 and then the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, where he received a Bachelors of Fine Arts in 1958.

After graduating from Burney Street High School in 1948, Andrews received a college scholarship for his work in the local 4-H organization. He spent a summer in Atlanta painting murals, then enrolled in Georgia's Fort Valley State College. Two years later, when the scholarship ended, he enlisted in the Air Force. Andrews trained in Texas, then served in Korea until 1954, attaining the rank of staff sergeant.

Returning to civilian life, Andrews enrolled at the prestigious School of the Art Institute of Chicago. During his years at art school, Andrews earned money as an illustrator for record companies and drawing advertising illustrations for various theater companies in Chicago. Andrews earned his BFA in 1958 and moved to New York, settling on the Lower East Side. During the next seven years, they had two sons, Christopher and Thomas, and a daughter, Julia. His wife took an office job to support the family, while Andrews stayed at home, took care of the children, and painted.

Between 1960 and 1970, he had eleven solo shows at the Paul Kessler Gallery in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and three at the Forum Gallery in New York City. In 1965, Andrews received a John Hay Whitney Fellowship, which was renewed the following year. In addition to his success as an artist, Andrews earned a reputation as a political activist, fighting for recognition of African American artists and culture. He died on November 10, 2006.

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of the papers of Benny Andrews from 1940-2006. The papers include correspondence, exhibit files, files relating the his organizational work with the National Arts Program files and the National Endowment for the Arts, photographs, printed material, writings and illustrations, audio-visual material, artwork, and Andrews family correspondence and papers.
Arrangement Note

Organized into eleven series: (1) Correspondence, (2) Exhibit files, (3) Organization files, (4) Photographs, (5) Personal files, (6) Printed material, (7) Subject files, (8) Writings/Illustrations, (9) Andrews family correspondence and papers, (10) Audiovisual materials, (11) Artwork, and (12) Unprocessed additions.