Dawoud Bey began his career as an artist in 1975 with a series of photographs, Harlem, USA, that were later exhibited in his first one-person exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. He has since had numerous exhibitions worldwide, at such institutions as the Art Institute of Chicago, the Barbican Centre in London, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the National Portrait Gallery in London, and the Whitney Museum of American Art among many others. The Walker Art Center organized a mid-career survey of his work, Dawoud Bey: Portraits 1975-1995, that traveled to institutions throughout the United States and Europe. The Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago organized a survey exhibition in 2012 Dawoud Bey: Picturing People that traveled to museums in the United States. That same year, the Art Institute of Chicago acquired the complete vintage group of Harlem, USA photographs and mounted the first exhibition of that work since in was first exhibited at Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. The Art Institute of Chicago and Yale University Press also published the complete Harlem, U.S.A. project for the first time.
In addition to numerous solo exhibitions at museums and galleries worldwide, Bey’s works are included in the permanent collections of numerous museums, both in the United States and abroad, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, the Guggenheim Museum, the High Museum of Art in Atlanta, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, the Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and other museums world wide.
Bey’s recent Birmingham Project evokes the tragic events of September 15, 1963, when four black girls and two boys were killed in Birmingham, Ala. in acts of racist violence. These diptych portraits depict young black children who are the ages of the young people killed that day, and women and men the ages they would have been fifty years later. A video work 9.15.63, that is part of this project,evokes the quiet Sunday morning turned horrifically tragic.
His most recent project Harlem Redux, Bey returned to Harlem forty years after his first project Harlem, USA to look at the effects of how gentrification has had on that storied African American community. The large scale color photographs are a visualization of the evolving social spaces within that community, which is experiencing rapid gentrification, and engage the themes of memory, loss, absence, displacement, and transformation. These photographs continue his recent ongoing interest in excavating the social histories embedded in place.
Bey is currently at work on Station, a group of works referencing the Underground Railroad in Ohio that will debut at FRONT International: Cleveland’s Triennial for Contemporary Art in 2018.
Bey has been honored with numerous fellowships and honors over the course of his long career, including the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship and a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts. He was a 2015 United States Artist Fellow. In 2017, Bey received the MacArthur Fellowship.
His critical writings have appeared in publications throughout Europe and the United States, including High Times Hard Times: New York Painting, 1967- 1975, The Van DerZee Studio, and David Hammons: Been There Done That. He has curated a wide range of exhibitions at museums and institutions as well, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, Weatherspoon Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Wadsworth Atheneum, GASP (Gallery Artists Studio Projects) and the Hyde Park Art Center. In 2018 a major retrospective monograph, Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply, 1975-2017 will be published by the University of Texas Press.
Bey holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University School of Art. Bey is a professor of photography at Columbia College Chicago, where he began teaching in 1998, and served as the 2008-10 Distinguished College Artist.
He is represented by Stephen Daiter Gallery, Chicago; Rena Bransten Gallery, San Francisco; and Mary Boone Gallery, New York.