The North Carolina Museum of Art

30 Americans

Through September 4, 2011

30 Americans highlights the work of 31 contemporary African American artists in an exhibition organized by and drawn from the Rubell Family Collection in Miami, Florida. Presented in the NCMA’s Meymandi Exhibition Gallery, 30 Americans consists of 75 works of art and includes painting, drawing, photography, video, sculpture, and mixed-media installations. The exhibition features both established and emerging artists and illustrates how a previous generation of African American artists has influenced the current generation. The exhibition focuses on artists who explore similar themes and subject matter in their work, primarily issues of race, gender, identity, history, and popular culture. Artists featured in the exhibition include Robert Colescott, David Hammons, Barkley Hendricks, Jean-Michel Basquiat, Kerry James Marshall, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Nick Cave, Glenn Ligon, Kehinde Wiley, Mark Bradford, iona rozeal brown, Wangechi Mutu, and many others.

The Rubell Family Collection is an internationally renowned collection of contemporary art that was established by Don and Mera Rubell in 1964. Jason and Jennifer Rubell now assist their parents in building the collection with works that range in date from the 1960s to the present. The Rubell family describes the collection and the impetus for this exhibition as follows:

Since we started collecting in the 1960s, we have always collected African American artists as a part of our broader mission to collect the most interesting art of our time. Approximately three years ago, we found there was a critical mass of emerging African American artists, and began the process of understanding what seemed to be a new movement. When we asked these artists about their influences, we heard some of the same names over and over: Robert Colescott, Renée Green, David Hammons, Barkley Hendricks, Kerry James Marshall, Gary Simmons, Lorna Simpson, Kara Walker, and Carrie Mae Weems.

As the show evolved, we decided to call it 30 Americans. “Americans,” rather than “African Americans” or “Black Americans,” because nationality is a statement of fact, while racial identity is a question each artist answers in his or her own way, or not at all. And the number 30 because we acknowledge, even as it is happening, that this show does not include everyone who could be in it. The truth is, because we do collect right up to the last minute before a show, there are actually 31 artists in 30 Americans. (November 2008)

The exhibition 30 Americans is part of the NCMA’s ongoing commitment to present work by internationally recognized contemporary artists and to highlight the variety and historical depth of art and artists from diverse backgrounds. In concert with the Nasher Museum of Art’s exhibition, Building the Contemporary Collection: Five Years of Acquisitions, which includes twelve artists represented in 30 Americans, and reflects the art and culture of the African diaspora, visitors can appreciate the richness and range of contemporary works in two Triangle-area venues.

Some content in this exhibition may not be appropriate for all audiences. Visitor discretion is advised.


Nina Chanel Abney
John Bankston
Jean-Michel Basquiat
Mark Bradford
iona rozeal brown
Nick Cave
Robert Colescott
Noah Davis
Leonardo Drew
Renée Green
David Hammons
Barkley L. Hendricks
Rashid Johnson
Glenn Ligon
Kalup Linzy
Kerry James Marshall
Rodney McMillian
Wangechi Mutu
William Pope.L
Gary Simmons
Xaviera Simmons
Lorna Simpson
Shinique Smith
Jeff Sonhouse
Henry Taylor
Hank Willis Thomas
Mickalene Thomas
Kara Walker
Carrie Mae Weems
Kehinde Wiley
Purvis Young

Note: These are links to the artists' own sites. 


Organized by the Rubell Family Collection, Miami. In Raleigh support is provided by the North Carolina Museum of Art Friends of African and African American Art. This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, the North Carolina Museum of Art Foundation, Inc., and the William R. Kenan Jr. Endowment for Educational Exhibitions.

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$10Adults, other prices
$8 Seniors (65+), military,
students 13+, groups of 10+
$5 Children 7–12
Free Children 6 and under
Free College student, Fridays 5–9 pm
(with current I.D.)
Free Member's first visit
(subsequent visits 50% off)
Exhibition Tickets
East Building Meymandi Exhibition Gallery
15,000 ft² Gallery Size
75 Works of Art


The Museum Library is located on the west end of O Level in East Building. It is open to the public Tuesday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm. It is a research-oriented, noncirculating library.

Exhibition site (Rubell Family Collection)
Exhibition checklist (Rubell Family Collection)

Speak Up!

It’s your turn to be a critic during the 30 Americans exhibition. What would you ask the artist? What’s your strongest impression from this image? Respond to questions like these posted near selected works of art, and text your responses straight from the exhibition gallery—or post online.

Presented by
The Friends of African and African American Art

Promotional support
Empire Eats