GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Beginning this month, the Grand Rapids Art Museum will do something no museum has done before, hosting two of the world’s most influential photo-based artists. Carrie Mae Weems and Dawoud Bay met in a photography class at the Studio Museum in Harlem back in 1976. The two have been intellectual friends ever since. And their art has shared the themes of their relationship; race, class, representation and systems of power. But they have never had an exhibit share their work together, until now.

“I’ve never been given a major exhibition in concert with another artist that I was deeply involved with, so for me, it’s a really unique exhibition,” Weems said. “It gives me the great opportunity of learning about an extraordinary artist who has been by my side for the last 45 years. What Dawoud has managed to accomplish is not easy for any artist. And he’s done it with such dignity, such grace, and with such generosity of spirit.” 

The exhibition will feature 140 pieces from the two artists that will give a rare glimpse into how each artist in different in their approach to represent marginalized communities and history and how they are similar.

“Carrie Mae Weems and I have been carrying on a personal conversation for more than forty years. We both see ourselves in conversation with history, both broadly and within the sphere of African American culture. We’ve nurtured each other’s burning desire to contribute meaningfully to the long history of Black expressive excellence,” Bey said. “Hopefully, this exhibition at the Grand Rapids Art Museum reveals that the conversation that Carrie and I have had has both buoyed each other’s work and produced something of lasting meaning and value.”

Dawoud Bey & Carrie Mae Weems: In Dialogue will open January 29th and run through April 30th of this year, with a preview for museum members happening on January 28th. It will be divided into five sections that show their unique approach and interests of concerns: Early Work, Broadening the Scope, Resurrecting Black Histories, Memorial and Requiem and Revelations in the Landscape.

Dawoud Bey, Women in the Light/Courtesy: GRAM

Both artists will also make themselves available for a members only conversation, March 28th. There, along with chief curator Ron Platt, they’ll discuss their art, friendship and influences over the last 45 years.

​“Dawoud Bey and Carrie Mae Weems have always sought to create works of art that expand the way we think about the world,” Platt said. “Both artists have been united in their commitment to amplifying authentic Black experiences and images, recognizing those important perspectives and insights were overlooked and sorely lacking within the field of photography.”

Learn more about this exhibit, the artists and the museum, here.