Bradford Grant / Courtesy of National Portrait Gallery
Originally Published by: WAMU 88.5 on 07/17/2020
Written By: Mikaela Lefrak
The Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery has named Howard University architecture professor and sketch artist Brad Grant as its first-ever Instagram artist-in-residence.
During his year-long residency, Grant will wander the gallery’s halls and attend openings, lectures and installations — when the museum reopens, that is. He’ll make sketches based on what he sees and post his work to the museum’s Instagram account.
The exact plans for his residency are still a bit up in the air due to the coronavirus pandemic and ensuing shutdown. “It’s in some ways an experiment,” Grant says. His first drawing to go on the museum’s Instagram featured a sketch not of the museum, but of artists putting up Black Lives Matter murals in downtown D.C.
“[The stay-at-home order] allows me to wander downtown in an empty city and look at things in a very different way,” Grant says of the fact that the Portrait Gallery and most other D.C. museums are still closed.
Museums often appoint artists-in-residence to create work inspired by the museum’s holdings and to interact with the public on its behalf. But the idea of an Instagram artist-in-residence is relatively new.
Paris’s Musée d’Orsay was one of the first to create the position: It named its first in January, appointing illustrator Jean-Philippe Delhomme. In his weekly posts, he imagines what artists of the past might post if they were alive today.
Over the past few years the Portrait Gallery has begun to cultivate its Instagram following.
Kim Sajet, the Portrait Gallery’s director, credits some of their burgeoning success on the platform to the accessibility of portraiture compared to, say, abstract expressionism or religious art from the Middle Ages.
“Art can be this kind of club, and you can feel you’re not a part of it,” she says. “But when it’s portraits and you’re looking at people, it’s immediately much more approachable.”
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