A rare stained-glass portrait by Wiley and a Walters-commissioned mosaic by Massie diversify—and respond to—the museum’s collection
Baltimore, MD—The Walters Art Museum announces two major acquisitions: Saint Amelie, a rare stained-glass work by internationally acclaimed artist Kehinde Wiley, and Reflections of Sybby Grant, a ceramic work by celebrated Baltimore artist Herbert Massie. Both pieces respond to and comment on historical works of art that are at the core of the Walters collection and create unique conversations that bridge time and place, expanding the narratives the museum can present in its galleries.
“Herbert Massie is a long-treasured gem of our local arts community and Kehinde Wiley is a global art star. It is only fitting that Reflections of Sybby Grant and Saint Amelie have now found a home at the Walters in Baltimore,” said Julia Marciari-Alexander, Andrea B. and John H. Laporte Director. “While the Walters is known for its remarkable collection of pre-modern works from around the world, we have in recent years strategically acquired selected works from the modern and contemporary periods in order to explore new narratives and reveal insights into the past and present. The impact of these two works will be felt by visitors to the museum for generations to come.”
Kehinde Wiley’s Saint Amelie (2014) is one of only 12 in a series of stained-glass portraits made by the artist—and is now the only stained-glass work by Wiley in a public museum in the United States. In this case, the work has particular relevance to the Walters since the reference point for Saint Amelie is a work by 19th-century French Neoclassical painter Jean-Auguste-Dominique Ingres, by whom the Walters owns several works. The Walters also has a renowned collection of Medieval glasswork, including a number of monumental stained-glass windows, among them a Stained Glass Window with Ancestor of Christ dating to c. 1200 CE and a 15th-century German Stained Glass Quatrefoil Roundel with Hunting Scenes. Using traditional materials, techniques, and motifs, Wiley’s Saint Amelie portrays Kern Alexander, a model often depicted in Wiley’s work; evoking the medieval convention of naming the saint portrayed in the window, Wiley names Alexander on the pedestal on which he stands. Saint Amelie by Kehinde Wiley will be on view to the public from October 4, 2023, in the Medieval galleries on Level 3 of the Centre Street Building.
Herbert Massie’s Reflections of Sybby Grant (2018), a mosaic piece made of ceramic, was originally commissioned by the Walters to be installed in the newly renovated 1 West Mount Vernon Place, also known as Hackerman House. A single work comprising five mosaic panels, this work was created through a collaborative community arts project conceived of and led by Massie. The piece incorporates over 200 ceramic plates created by over 400 community members and honors the life and legacy of Sybby Grant, the enslaved cook of Dr. John Hanson Thomas and his family, who built and were the first residents of the home. Reflections of Sybby Grant has been on view at the Walters since it was commissioned for the reopening of Hackerman House in 2018. It is currently located on Level 1 of 1 West Mount Vernon Place.
About the Artists
Kehinde Wiley (born 1977, Los Angeles) is an American artist best known for his portraits that render people of color in the traditional settings of Old Master works. Wiley brings art history face-to-face with contemporary culture, using the visual rhetoric of the heroic, the powerful, the majestic, and the sublime to celebrate Black and brown people the artist has met throughout the world. Working in the mediums of painting, sculpture, and video, Wiley’s portraits challenge and reorient art-historical narratives, awakening complex issues that many would prefer to remain muted.
Herbert Massie (born 1954, Baltimore) is a teaching artist and lifelong resident of Baltimore. In 2016, the Maryland State Arts Council named him the recipient of the Sue Hess Maryland Arts Advocate of the Year Award. With well over 25 years of experience, in addition to teaching at Clayworks and Jubilee Arts, Massie has hosted ceramic workshops and classes in Baltimore City schools, with teens, adults, and community elders, as well as people in addiction recovery and those formerly incarcerated.
About the Walters Art Museum
The Walters Art Museum is a cultural hub in the heart of Baltimore, located in the city’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. The museum’s collection spans more than seven millennia, from 5,000 BCE to the 21st century, and encompasses 36,000 objects from around the world. Walking through the museum’s historic buildings, visitors encounter a stunning panorama of thousands of years of art, from romantic 19th-century images of French gardens to mesmerizing Ethiopian icons, richly illuminated Qur’ans and Gospel books, ancient Roman sarcophagi, and serene images of the Buddha. Since its founding, the Walters mission has been to bring art and people together to create a place where people of every background can be touched by art. As part of this commitment, admission to the museum and special exhibitions is always free.
Admission to the museum is free. The Walters Art Museum is located at 600 N. Charles St., north of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor. For general museum information, call 410-547-9000 or visit thewalters.org.
Free admission to the Walters Art Museum is made possible through the combined generosity of individual members and donors, foundations, corporations, and grants from the City of Baltimore, Maryland State Arts Council, Citizens of Baltimore County, Howard County Government, and Howard County Arts Council.