About the Collection
The New York State Harlem Art Collection was conceived in 1976 to draw the public’s attention to works that celebrated the significant contributions of the Harlem art community and were produced predominantly by Black and Hispanic artists. The pieces were selected by the Harlem State Office Building Committee on Arts and Culture, which was created and organized in 1975 by then Senator H. Carl McCall with representation from State and City governments and the Harlem business community.
The result was a collection comprised of more than 100 works of art, including painting, sculpture, photography, prints and mixed-media, by 65 artists. Several of these artists are now considered major contributors to the history of American art and to one of the most important art movements of the 20th century.
In the mid-1990s, a majority of works in the collection were moved into storage in the basement of the building to make way for exhibits of works by local contemporary artists and student artists in the community.
Several pieces of the Harlem Art Collection experienced water damage in 2006 when broken pipes caused flooding in the basement. The collection was then moved to the building’s 13th floor storage area where it remained in poor condition and hidden from public view for five years.
The collection was rediscovered when renovations were being planned for the 13th floor, and it was temporary relocated to Albany in 2012 to assess the condition of the artwork. Individual pieces that required specialized attention were sent out for conservation repairs, cleaning, and restoration.
Today, the collection returns to the Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. State Office Building and can be viewed in historical context with a unique perspective of cultural awareness and powerful artistic expressiveness that resonates far beyond Harlem.
Additional works from the Harlem Art Collection will be displayed here on a revolving basis during new exhibitions over the next year.