Exploring the Life of Adolphus Ealey and the Barnett Aden Gallery


Adolphus Ealey
This Gallery Talk explores the life of Dr. Adolphus Ealey (1941-1992) who served as the curator and director of The Barnett Aden Gallery, which was founded in 1943, by Professor James Herring of Howard University and his student, Alonzo Aden, the first curator. The gallery helped to launch the careers of artists such as Romare Bearden, Elizabeth Catlett, David Driskell, John Farrar, Lois Mailou Jones, Herman Maril, Delilah Pierce, James Porter, Céline Marie Tabary, Charles Sebree, Henry O. Tanner, Alma Thomas, Laura Wheeler Waring, James Wells, Charles White, Ellis Wilson and Hale Woodruff. The gallery operated for 26 years in Washington, D.C. and was the nation’s first successful black-owned art gallery.


Myrtis Bedolla
Myrtis Bedolla, Curator, will share insights about the pioneering Barnett Aden Gallery and Ealey’s role as its second curator and director, and examine his career as artist and scholar. In 1969, Ealey inherited the famed Barnett-Aden collection which consisted of over 250 works of art by 19th and 20th century artists. The most revered pieces were those created by African Americans. Today, the majority of the collection is owned by Robert L. Johnson, founder of Black Entertainment Television (BET).

Bedolla will also address why the Barnett Aden Gallery was established; how the collection was built, why Ealey sold the collection for $6 million in 1989; and how Robert L. Johnson came to acquire it ten years later.


Michael Evanson
Michael Evanson was one of Adolphus Ealey’s close and dear friends. They met in Philadelphia around 1976 when Adolphus became the museum director for the African American Museum of Philadelphia. During the course of their friendship Adolphus helped open a new dimension of appreciation in Michael for fine arts and the art world.

Michael was fortunate to ride around as co-pilot on many of Adolphus’ artistic journeys in Washington, DC as Adolphus was museum curator, art appraiser, art collector, and creative consultant to many clients, artists, and business associates in the Washington area. Michael appreciates that Adolphus was an extraordinary artist himself and always worked to ensure a lasting legacy for the Barnett-Aden Collection.