Baltimore artist Amy Sherald’s larger-than-life painting of slain emergency medical technician Breonna Taylor now has a new home. Following a joint acquisition in March by the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Kentucky, and the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, museum-goers will now be able to view the portrait of the 26-year-old on display in the nation’s capital.
On Friday, Sept. 10, “Breonna Taylor,” a 54- by 43-inch oil-on-linen painting in which the Kentucky native is depicted in a flowing turquoise gown with an engagement ring worn on her left hand, was put on display in the Washington museum’s newest exhibition, “Reckoning: Protest. Defiance. Resilience.”
The display will open in the museum’s Visual Art and the American Experience space, which explores the Black Lives Matter movement, violence against African-Americans, and how art depicts Black resistance, resilience, and protest.
Taylor was killed on March 13, 2020, after Louisville Metro Police stormed her apartment to execute a no-knock search warrant. The warrant was related to a narcotics case involving Taylor’s ex-boyfriend JaMarcus Glover, who was already in police custody.
Taylor was in bed with her boyfriend Kenneth Walker shortly after midnight when the officers began breaking down the apartment door. Thinking they were confronting criminal intruders, Walker and Taylor were in the apartment hallway facing the door when Walker fired a warning shot as the police broke in. The three officers opened fire hitting, Taylor five times and killing her. Walker remained unharmed.
The artwork originally was commissioned from Sherald by Vanity Fair for its September 2020 cover. The issue was a special edition zeroing in on activism and guest edited by Ta-Nehisi Coates, author of the Oprah Winfrey-stamped “The Water Dancer.”
“I am honored and proud of the work the museum has accomplished over the past five years to share African American history and culture with the world,” Kevin Young, the Andrew W. Mellon director of the African American History museum, said in a statement.
Sherald, a 48-year-old native of Columbus, Georgia, appeared to be on board with the joint acquisition of her breathtaking artwork, expressing her desire to have the painting seen by all. “I felt like it should live out in the world,” she told The New York Times in March. “I started to think about her hometown and how maybe this painting could be a Balm in Gilead for Louisville.”
Breonna Taylor’s portrait was the second commission for the Clark Atlanta University graduate. Sherald had previously earned international recognition for her official portrait of former first lady Michelle Obama.