Spike Lee and the photographs, album covers, movie posters, letters, books, costumes and film memorabilia that have inspired him will be explored through a new immersive exhibit at the Brooklyn Museum.
Spike Lee: Creative Sources will offer an in-depth look at the individuals, places and influences that have shaped the Oscar winner’s work. Running Oct. 6, 2023 to Feb. 4, 2024 and organized by Kimberli Gant, a curator of modern and contemporary art, with Indira A. Abiskaroon, curatorial assistant, modern and contemporary art at the Brooklyn Museum, the installation will feature over 300 objects displayed thematically in seven sections, each of which will feature a clip from one of Lee’s films.
“By making Lee’s collection accessible to the public, this showcase celebrates his legacy while honoring his deep connection to Brooklyn, a place that has been an integral part of his storytelling,” Gant said in a statement.
The seven sections of influences span Black history and culture, Brooklyn, cinema, family, music, politics and sports. Works of prominent Black American artists like Kehinde Wiley, Deborah Roberts, Elizabeth Catlett and Michael Ray Charles will be on display throughout the exhibit alongside depictions of Black American and African figures from across disciplines who’ve inspired Lee. That includes Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama, Shirley Chisholm, Angela Davis, Toni Morrison, Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, Malcolm X, Michael Jordan and Prince.
The Black history section will include Michael Ray Charles’ satirical artwork Forever Free, which helped inspire Lee’s 2000 film Bamboozled, alongside images of Harlem and of public figures Lena Horne, Jacob Lawrence and James Baldwin. In the Brooklyn section, visitors can see photographs by the director’s younger brother David Lee and Tseng Kwong Chi, as well as movie posters, set dressings and props from Lee’s Brooklyn-based films like Do the Right Thing and She’s Gotta Have It.
Within the section dedicated to Black athletes are a Wiley painting honoring the legacy of Brooklyn Dodgers’ Jackie Robinson and tennis racquets belonging to history-making players Arthur Ashe and Serena Williams. Gordon Parks’ photograph of composer Aaron Copland and James J. Kriegsmann’s photograph of Frank Sinatra will be presented as part of the music section, alongside Prince’s “Love Symbol” guitar and a saxophone signed by Mo’ Better Blues collaborator Branford Marsalis.
Cinema history’s influence on Lee will be visible through the presentation of photographs and vintage posters by the likes of Japanese director Akira Kurosawa and Italian director Federico Fellini, while the politics portion of the exhibit will include World War II and Vietnam War propaganda posters addressing the stereotypical imagery of Black American soldiers for Lee’s Miracle at St. Anna and Da 5 Bloods.
In the final portion, the family that has been important to Lee on- and off-screen can be viewed through photographic portraits. That includes his siblings, parents and grandparents; artistic depictions of family by Elizabeth Catlett and William H. Johnson; and portraits of the actors, designers, writers, musicians and more who have collaborated with Lee as part of his professional family.
The exhibit marks Brooklyn’s first major exhibition on Lee, and follows on the heels of his personal collection going on for view in the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures’ exhibition “Director’s Inspiration: Spike Lee (2021–22).”