12 Days of Feminists: Fariha Róisín on Art-World Renegade Kimberly Drew

This month, we’re celebrating the relentless women whose work helped us to resist, persist and get the f-ck through 2017. On day 11 of FLARE's 12 Days of Feminists, Fariha Róisín celebrates Kimberly Drew

A portrait of Kimberly Drew in ab off-white suit-inline

Kimberly Drew is a renegade and renaissance woman. If you’re not familiar with Kimberly’s prolific work, here goes: she’s a Brooklyn-based art critic, a writer, the social media manager for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, as well as the creator of the Tumblr “Black Contemporary Art,” and last, but not least, she is the wondrous @museummammy on Instagram, with more than 129,000 followers. What’s so impressive about her, however, is that she uses her platform to flip the script, and has transformed the consistently white art-world landscape, by refocusing the lens on mostly Black (and Brown) art.

In 2017 her efforts have shone even brighter, and more spectacularly, as she’s created a modern homage. Highlighting legends like El Anatsui or Yayoi Kusama; or giving light to younger artists such as Nydia Blas or Lynette Yiadom Boakye (who had a wonderful solo show at NYC’s New Museum earlier this year) reminding us that art is inherently democratic: It is made by all, and it should be accessed by all, too—which has been a 2017 mantra for me. In a Trump world, Kimberly’s reminders have been acts of survival.

There’s a youthfulness to Kimberly, age 27—as well as a composed elegance. I first came across her work a few years ago via Tumblr, eventually attending a Black Contemporary Art party the summer of 2016, just a few days after Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were murdered. Organized by Kimberly to reframe access to art by centering Black art, I was floored by the sense of community and electricity she had brought to the party, which more than anything was a celebration of Black life by bringing people together to talk and dance.

Upholding art with meaning, as well as art that is beautiful, Kimberly keeps an acute focus on art by, and about, Blackness. She has a discerning prescience for the vitality and importance of contemporary Black art, as well of the merits of art in general, and creates spaces for it on Instagram and Twitter, as well as through the plentiful amount of panels she’s on, where she campaigns for exposure for artists—whether Black and Brown, femme, queer/trans or non-binary. Her ability to mesh both the political with the pop cultural feels momentous.

She’s also not afraid to put her name on causes that matter. In October, Kimberly endorsed an open letter by women-identified and gender non-conforming art-world citizens to talk about abuse in the art world, and earlier this year she signed another open letter written by artist Hannah Black to urge the Whitney Museum in New York to destroy a painting of Emmett Till by white artist Dana Schutz, which was based on open coffin photos of Till, a Black teenager lynched to death by two white men in 1955.

If this leaves you wanting more from Kimberly, you’re in luck. She’s currently writing a book, entitled The Black Futures Project, with Jenna Wortham of The New York Times. She recently discussed the book in an interview for SSENSE, stating, “I think if there’s something I hope for in the future for Black artists, and for a Black art ‘discourse,’ it’s that people continue to think about it as an instance of futurity and expansiveness. That there is always more. I always encourage others to have an imagination about the future possibilities of Black cultural production.” Words to both remember, and live by.

More from FLARE’s ‘12 Days of Feminists’ series:
Day 1: Anne T. Donahue on Fierce Truth-Teller Scaachi Koul
Day 2: Sadiya Ansari on Fearless Supernova Jane Fonda
Day 3: Janaya Khan on Mary Hooks Bringing Black Moms Home
Day 4: Meghan Collie on “Unf-ckwithable Voice of Reason” Lauren Duca
Day 5: Nakita Valerio on Effervescent Community Leader Nasra Adem

Day 6: Anne Thériault on Tanya Tagaq Singing Truth to Power
Day 7: Laura Hensley on Unapologetic Activist and Entrepreneur Jen Agg
Day 8: Jenn Berry on Exuberant Montreal Mayor Valérie Plante
Day 9: Lora Grady on the Electrifying Lindy West
Day 10: Farrah Khan on the Beautiful Jill Andrew & Aisha Fairclough