The Black Art Depot

The Kaplan African American Visual Culture Collection, which was acquired by the Getty Research Institute, is an important source of artwork, photographs, and other materials that capture the history and culture of African Americans. These resources on African-American art and history will allow researchers to better comprehend and understand the various and significant contributions of African Americans to visual culture.

What is the Whitney and Lee Kaplan African American Visual Culture Collection?

The collection focuses on Black visual culture in the United States, although it also includes materials from the Caribbean and Latin America to give a broader picture of African diasporic art.

Who are Whitney and Lee Kaplan?

Lee Kaplan is the brainchild of Arcana Books, a Los Angeles-based bookstore launched in 1984. Arcana is one of the world's most prominent visual arts bookshops, offering cutting-edge literature on Photography, Art, Fashion, Cinema, Design, and Architecture. Lee Kaplan and his daughter Whitney Cook Kaplan currently manage the bookstore.

How did the Collection Come into Existence?

In the late 1980s, Lee Kaplan began to privately collect material on African American artists after noting a significant gap in published works about them. With his meticulous and careful archiving, the Kaplans have collected more than 3,500 catalogs, periodicals, artist's books, pamphlets, and zines on African American artists and Black visual culture. These date from 1903 to the present.

He carefully selected this collection over a long period of time. He collected papers from many different sources, including publishers, museums and galleries, other book dealers, artists, art collectors, cultural workers, academics, and curators.

What Books are in the Whitney and Lee Kaplan African American Visual Culture Collection?

The personal archives of artist Betye Saar, the libraries of academics Robert Farris Thompson and Doran Ross, and the joint purchases, with other institutions, of the Johnson Publishing Company and Paul Revere Williams archives, out-of-print catalogs published by long-defunct galleries, and recent zines by Los Angeles artists are some of the many items and books that make up The Whitney and Lee Kaplan Collection.

Why is this Collection Important to the Getty Research Initiative?

The Kaplan Collection is a great addition to the Getty Research Institute's African American Art History Initiative. This series includes material on uncommon African American art publications, black history, and African diasporic visual art. The collection will be cataloged over the course of several years and made available to researchers at the Getty Research Institute.

This acquisition gives the Getty Research Institute Library a chance to get more materials about Black visual culture from many different sources.

What is the Getty Research Institute's African American Art History Initiative?

The goal of the Getty Research Institute's African American Art History Initiative is to document the historical significance, contemporary impact, and cultural legacy of works by African American artists. This will help increase public awareness and enjoyment of these works. Simone Fujita was the project's first bibliographer. Since his appointment in 2019, he has been working to expand the library's print and electronic collections on behalf of black artists.

How to access the Getty Research Institute's African American Art History Initiative?

The Getty Research Institute's Library is open for use by appointment only to all registered Readers and new researchers.

Request an appointment

Search the library's catalog


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Written by Kani Ayubu — March 30, 2022

Kani Ayubu