Portrait of a Negro (1926) Miki Hayakawa
Portrait of a Negro (1926) Miki Hayakawa

Five leading art museums in the U.S. are collaborating with a billboard trade group to exhibit masterworks of American art outdoors in cities this summer.

50 works will be reproduced in tens of thousands of public spaces, including billboards, bus stops, and subway stations, providing chance encounters with great works of art nationwide.

It’s called Art Everywhere US, a first of its kind collaboration for US museums, based on a successful version in the UK last summer. For the project this August, online voting from the public will determine which 50 artworks make the cut, choosing from 100 paintings, designs and photographs.

The National Gallery of Art in DC, Art Institute of Chicago, Whitney Museum of American Art in New York, and the Museums of Art in Los Angeles and Dallas each chose twenty pieces from their collections that best tell the story of America.

They collaborated with artists, estates, foundations, and rights agencies to be able to share the images of these 100 works on websites and social media and eventually outdoors in public.

It affords an unprecedented opportunity to acquaint countless millions of Americans and visitors to our country with some of America’s best and most memorable artworks.

The 100 artworks span the history of the United States, from portraiture before and after the American Revolution in 1776, to landscapes of the nineteenth century, to scenes of daily life in the last quarter of the 1800s, to still life paintings and images of the well-to-do.  Selections from the early twentieth century take us to the American West through photography, to a scene from the Bible, to the First World War.

Nighthawks_painting-cropped-ArtEverywhereGritty urban scenes documenting the Great Depression are joined by an image of the Dust Bowl in the West and the genius and travails of African-Americans at that time. Surrealism, Abstract Expressionism and Pop Art, such Andy Warhol’s soup are also represented. Among the artists whose works are on the ballot: Edward Hopper, Mark Rothko, John Singer Sargent, Mary Cassatt, Ed Ruscha, Catherine Opie, Andy Warhol, Cindy Sherman and Frank Lloyd Wright.

“All in all, the 100 works in Art Everywhere US bring us face-to-face with the story of our nation, told by the visionaries who captured our essence at the time they lived and worked, and who to this day compel us to find our place in the evolving story of America,” says the Art Everywhere US website.

Billed as the biggest art exhibition in history, the project hopes to inspire everyone to visit their local museums, and start a national conversation about the importance of creativity in our schools and daily lives.

Vote for your favorites at ArtEverywhereUS.org, where the final list of 50 artworks will be announced June 20.

(READ more from the LA Times)

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