Amy Sherald’s Portrait of Breonna Taylor: In the Garden
June 7 – November 26, 2023
Galleries 1 & 2
The Speed Art Museum is honored to present In the Garden, a special installation centered around Amy Sherald’s portrait of the late Breonna Taylor. Taylor, a 26-year-old emergency room technician, was murdered by Louisville Metro Police officers who illegally entered her apartment in March 2020. In the wake of this event and other violent instances like the Minneapolis murder of George Floyd, massive protests demanding justice and renewed social equality for Black and brown bodies commenced across the world.
Sherald’s painting of Breonna Taylor was originally commissioned for Vanity Fair magazine’s September 2020 issue as a public memorial to Taylor’s life and the ongoing quest for social justice. In 2021, the portrait was jointly acquired by the Speed Art Museum in Louisville and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C.
In 2018, the artist Amy Sherald rose to international prominence after her official portrait of former First Lady Michelle Obama was unveiled to the world. For Sherald, “social portraiture”—which has a long, grand tradition in the halls of European and American sites of authority and wealth—is an artistic practice that can also be wielded by Black painters and makers of color as an agent of change. Through its very presence, the portrait of Breonna Taylor commands and inspires our space and place; it urges us to contemplate the horrors of our society, and it reminds us there is much work to be done.
In the Garden, which is sited throughout Galleries 1-2, is a special presentation mounted to invite reflection, dialogue, and community contemplation. This installation, which also features artworks by leading contemporary artists Anthony Akinbola, Firelei Báez, Andrea Bowers, María Magdalena Campos-Pons, vanessa german, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Ebony G. Patterson, Nari Ward, T.A. Yero, and Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, explores themes of loss, joy, injustice, growth, and sorrow. Comprised of collection artworks and special loans, it is partially inspired by “Breonna’s Garden,” a virtual reality experience co-created by Ju’Niyah Palmer, Breonna Taylor’s younger sister. In addition, Louisville artists Braylyn Resko Stewart and Sara Noori have been invited to create a site-specific mural for this installation. Amy Sherald’s Portrait of Breonna Taylor: In the Garden was developed with significant guidance from Breonna Taylor’s family.
Throughout the course of this installation, the Speed will offer public and community programming around the topics of personal healing, gun violence, and empowerment.