Ava DuVernay aims to 'change minds' with BLM art exhibition

Robert Dex, Evening Standard, October 26, 2020

elma director Ava DuVernay says she wants to “change minds” with an exhibition bringing the Black Lives Matter movement into the heart of London’s art world.

The 48-year-old, whose films include the Oscar-nominated 2014 civil rights drama and Disney’s A Wrinkle In Time, has teamed up with Mayfair gallery Signature African Art for the show. It features paintings and sculptures by 13 African artists and honours George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, whose killings at the hands of police in the US inspired the BLM movement.

Mr Floyd, whose death in Minneapolis shocked the world when footage emerged of a white police officer kneeling on his neck pinning him to the floor, is the subject of nine separate paintings which feature some of the things he said during his last moments, including when he told officers: “I can’t breathe”.

Another painting shows Breonna Taylor, who was shot dead during a bungled police raid at her home in Kentucky. A share of proceeds from the works will go to their families.

DuVernay, pictured, who also wrote and directed drama When They See Us, about a group of black men falsely convicted of raping and attacking a jogger in New York’s Central Park, said she believed the artists could shed new light on the names behind the headlines.


She said: “There is a difference between reading a newspaper and getting the facts of the Breonna Taylor case and getting another side of it in an artist’s emotional and expressive interpretation of her and her life. We have to change the stories that we tell around these cases and change the attitudes and artists can change minds, can help you think about things in different ways.” DuVernay said she did not see any conflict between art and activism, adding: “In order to make art you have to have an imagination and activists do the same thing, because they imagine a world that isn’t there.”