(Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)
(Photo by Barbara Alper/Getty Images)

'Spike Lee: Creative Sources' is an upcoming exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum with the filmmakers inspirations at the center


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Spike Lee: Creative Sources is an upcoming exhibit set to open at the Brooklyn Museum that features the photographs, album covers, movie posters, letters, books, costumes and film memorabilia that have inspired Spike Lee, the Oscar-winning writer-director, and they will be explored through a new immersive exhibit. 

Running from this upcoming October 6 to February 4, 2024 and organized by Kimberli Gant, a curator of modern and contemporary art, with Indira A. Abiskaroon, curatorial assistant, modern and contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, over 300 objects will be displayed thematically in seven sections, and each will feature a clip from one of Lee’s many films. 

“Reverberations can be found between items that have been touchpoints for Lee and the topics he explores on-screen. Seven throughlines of his life and oeuvre—Black history and culture, Brooklyn, sports, music, cinema history, family, and politics—are explored with more than three hundred works drawn from his personal collection,”according to the statement from the Brooklyn Museum. 

“Together they reveal the connections among the people, places, and ideas that have fueled Lee’s incisive storytelling.”

The seven sections of influences span Black history and culture, Brooklyn, cinema, family, music, politics and sports. 

Works from Black American artists including Kehinde Wiley, Deborah Roberts, Elizabeth Catlett and Michael Ray Charles will be on display alongside depictions of Black American and African figures who’ve inspired Lee. 

That includes Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Malcolm X, Michael Jordan and Prince.

“By making Lee’s collection accessible to the public, this showcase celebrates his legacy while honoring his deep connection to Brooklyn, a place that has been an integral part of his storytelling,” Gant said in a statement.

The exhibition will offer “a fresh perspective on a cultural icon, focusing on the individuals and influences that have shaped Spike Lee’s body of work, which is so well known today.” 

In the Black history section, Michael Ray Charles’ satirical artwork Forever Free, which was one of several inspirations for Lee’s 2000 film Bamboozled, alongside images of Harlem and of public figures Lena Horne, Jacob Lawrence and James Baldwin will be shown. 

In the Brooklyn section, photographs by Lee's younger brother David Lee and Tseng Kwong Chi can be seen, as well as movie posters, set dressings and props from Lee’s Brooklyn-based films such as Do the Right Thing and his 1986 debut, She’s Gotta Have It.

In the section meant to honor Black athletes, a Wiley painting honoring the legacy of Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson and tennis racquets belonging to history-making players Arthur Ashe and Serena Williams will be displayed. 

Lee’s cinema inspirations will also be visible through the presentation of photographs and vintage posters by Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and Italian director Federico Fellini, and the politics portion of the exhibit will include such artifacts like World War II and Vietnam War propaganda posters addressing the stereotypical imagery of Black American soldiers for Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna and Da 5 Bloods.

The final portion is dedicated to the family that has been important to Lee on- and off-screen including his siblings, parents and grandparents through photographic portraits. 

Artistic depictions of family by Elizabeth Catlett and William H. Johnson and portraits of the actors, designers, writers, musicians and more who have collaborated with Lee as part of his professional family will also be included. 

The exhibit is Brooklyn’s first major exhibition on Lee, who grew up in the neighborhood of Fort Greene, and comes after his personal collection going on view in the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ exhibition “Director’s Inspiration: Spike Lee (2021–22).”

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