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    In Conversation With

    Antwaun Sargent

    00:00-00:00
    Saatchi Video
    This October, Burberry is partnering with the Saatchi gallery in London on its latest exhibition ‘The New Black Vanguard’ that spotlights Black lives, including the significance of Black creators, based on the book by Antwaun Sargent.

    A writer and critic, Sargent is also a renowned curator who has curated a dedicated Burberry space within the exhibition that showcases a new generation’s notions of identity, beauty and desire. Through photographs and videos created in partnership with Burberry, the space spotlights the innovative and inclusive possibilities created when fashion and art collide – a subject matter that has been at the core of Antwaun Sargent’s work. We sat down with the curator to understand more of what drives him in the art world.
    Chase Hall
    Photographer: Chase Hall

    Burberry: Your book ‘The New Black Vanguard: Photography Between Art and Fashion’ helped change the discourse of inclusivity in the art space – how did you coin the phrase ‘The New Black Vanguard’ and what does it mean to you?

    Antwaun: ‘The New Black Vanguard’ is my way of describing this contemporary emerging cohort of young photographers, all of whom are employing the camera as a means of contemplating the Black experience through the intersection of art and fashion – two industries that have historically been dominated by white narratives. The phrase isn’t restricted to a technical definition but nods to a constantly evolving space of young creatives unafraid to uproot historical conventions. ‘The New Black Vanguard’ is not about simply sparking a moment of recognition for underrepresented artists but for outlining an expansive amorphous space that invites more artists into the discourse.

    You’re fiercely passionate about spotlighting Black creatives – what drew you to the fifteen artists featured at ‘The New Black Vanguard’ exhibition who are also featured in your book?

    Each of the chosen photographers are rethinking the spaces they inhabit and the audiences they cater or confront. From Tyler Mitchell’s landscapes to Awol Erizku’s staging, there is no mistaking the innovative nature each of these artists narratively invoke through their work.

    Through making noise about and space for Black creatives, you’ve already had a profound effect on the art world. What’s your underlying mission?

    I have always been interested in engaging with artists that contemplate and confront issues of identity, race, and representation through an array of mediums, genres, industries, even, and artistic processes. It’s about recognising voices that for too long have been overlooked by dominant narratives in the industry and uplifting them in a way that is conducive to the artist and surrounding discourse. That, at its core, has been central in all of my work.

    “‘The New Black Vanguard’ is not about simply sparking a moment of recognition for underrepresented artists but for outlining an expansive amorphous space that invites more artists into the discourse.”

    Frame Saatchi Exhibition

    What do you look for in a piece of art?

    When I’m looking at art, I’m looking for something new. I am interested in work that sparks new conversations and opens up opportunities that may have not been present in the past.

    What photographers are on your radar at the moment?

    Tyler Mitchell, Deana Lawson, Awol Erizku, Renell Medrano and Liz Johnson Artur.

    You’ve worked with a host of global changemakers, artists and creators in your career so far – who has inspired you the most and why?

    At the moment, I’ve been working a lot with Tyler Mitchell. We just opened two presentations of his in London during October. The first at Gagosian Davies Street and for the second we supported his 2022 Frieze Masters exhibition where he became the first contemporary artist commissioned to show at the fair. It’s been fantastic to witness him articulate ideas through new photographs, works on fabric and mirror, and a new installation, which reflects on historical motifs in the context of an Edenic vision of Black beauty and desire.
    Saatchi Exhibition
    Saatchi Exhibition

    What’s the future of contemporary photography?

    The future of contemporary photography is young, and with some artists, it’s already here. It’s a future that is not concerned with personal gain but in collectively showcasing a new narrative that rejects all notions of ‘dominance’ put forth by whiteness. It affects and calls attention to the way blackness is portrayed and perceived by Black and non-black audiences. The future is unafraid; it’s insistent; and it demands to be seen.

    You’ve long discussed the synergy between fashion and art – where and how do you think they intersect?

    I have this intense interest in the ‘in-between’ and fashion and art have always found themselves in conversation with each other. Basquiat walking for Comme De Garcon, YSL referencing Mondrian, Kerry James Marshall collaborating with Grace Wales Bonner. The synergy is decades old, and I have many projects that contemplate the intersection in a way that helps to bring context and history to that space in the art and fashion world.

    What’s the best advice you ever received as an up-and-coming young Black creative?

    Stay true to yourself.

    What is the best advice you can offer to up-and-coming young Black artists and creatives?

    Put yourself and your work out there, that’s the biggest step. Don’t be afraid to push back against what is deemed ‘conventional’ or ‘universal.’ These no longer hold the weight they once were perceived to.

    ‘The New Black Vanguard’ exhibition will run at the Saatchi gallery in London from October 2022, UK Black History Month, until January 2023.

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