How Antwaun Sargent is reworking the artwork world

The author of seminal photography book The New Black Vanguard talks through his plans as director of Gagosian Gallery with Gem Fletcher, which includes asking the question ‘what more can art do?’

The art world is at a crossroads. Cultural institutions are stumbling as they grapple with a long-overdue reckoning to decolonise and diversify. The sudden silencing of a global pandemic and one of the largest social justice movements in recent history has raised vital questions that can no longer be negotiated: What is salvageable? Can we rebuild from these foundations? Or do we need to tear it all down and start again? Antwaun Sargent is finding meaning amidst this rupture – actively ushering us towards a transformed reality of the art world that many of us long to inhabit.

The New York-based writer, curator, and newly appointed director of Gagosian Gallery has spent the last decade holding space for contemporary Black artistic production while making visible the history of exclusion and erasure that previous generations battled against. However, representation is just one facet of his expansive practice. Through a constellation of projects Sargent is initiating a recalibration of the art world, refusing to accept existing terms and instead asking: What more can art do?

Theaster Gates, A Song for Frankie, 2017-2021; © Theaster Gates; Photo: Robert McKeever; Courtesy Gagosian

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