Momentum Builds to Preserve Richmond Barthé’s Brooklyn Frieze

By: Zachary Small

Today marked the second article in as many days — this time in Hyperallergic — on gay African American sculptor Richmond Barthé and his art-deco frieze at Kingsborough Houses in Brooklyn.

Green Pastures: The Walls of Jericho is Barthé’s largest work. Originally a site-specific piece meant for an amphitheater at Harlem River Houses, the work was installed in its current location in Brooklyn when the planned amphitheater was not realized (because it was a publicly funded project through the Works Progress Administration, Barthé had no say as to its ultimate location).

Following a visit to the work, art professor Michele Bogart (@urbaninsideout on Twitter) noticed the dilapidation of the work and issued a public cry for restoring the frieze:

“Traveling to Brooklyn to see the state of Barthé’s frieze last week, Bogart was shocked by what she saw: open joints, hairline cracks, large holes, and disfigurations threatened to disintegrate whatever the ice, wind, and rain had left behind.”

The published stories piqued the interest of Twitter’s art lovers, and the interest of Swann Galleries, an auction house that has experience with Barthé’s work. The gallery announced it would lead the effort to have a conservator perform a cost assessment for restoring the frieze. This is only the first step, a way to gauge what it might take for interested parties to work together toward preservation, but it’s inspiring that this cause has drawn such interest. And that interest has only continued to grow, with many continuing to express on social media their support for seeing the art preserved.

We love this story! Many thanks to everyone who has shown so much interest in what happens to this important piece of public art and its connections to LGBT and African American history. To stay informed on further developments, Swann Galleries has created a dedicated mailing list for anyone interested in learning more about how they can get involved in any future efforts.

To read the full story at Hyperallergic, click here.