21c was founded in 2006 by Laura Lee Brown and Steve Wilson, contemporary art collectors and preservationists who are committed to broadening public access to thought-provoking contemporary art through acquisitions, exhibitions, and innovative cultural programming. Now a multi-venue museum, 21c also organizes exhibitions and events in Cincinnati, Bentonville, Durham, Lexington, and Oklahoma City. As 21c has expanded, the permanent collection has grown, and now includes artworks from all over the world, in media ranging from handcrafted textiles to digital generations, alongside painting, photography, sculpture, video, and performance. As seen in this selection of highlights from the collection, prevalent themes include portraiture and identity, landscape and the environment, politics and power. Artists both internationally known and emerging are represented in the 21c collection: Bill Viola, Kehinde Wiley, Anthony Goicolea, Ori Gersht, and Zanele Muholi have been collected and exhibited by museums across the globe, while Anastasia Schipani, Carlos Quintana, Quayola, Wim Botha, and others are just stepping onto the world’s art stage. From portraits of victims of violence by Titus Kaphar and Miguel Ángel Rojas, to visions of our endangered or decaying environments by Marco Veronese and Fabiano Parisi, to critiques of military might by Democracia and Anastasia Taylor-Lind, these visionary artists create aesthetically and conceptually engaging works that reflect how we live and die, work, play, and dream in the 21st century; their revelations may inspire insights into how we might build and share a progressive future worldwide.
During 21c’s first decade, nearly 100 exhibitions have been presented to the public, including Cuba Now!; Alter Ego: A Decade of Work by Anthony Goicolea; Hybridity: The New Frontier; Aftermath: Witnessing War, Countenancing Compassion; Seeing Now; Wild Card: The Art of Michael Combs; Dis-semblance: Projecting and Perceiving Identity; Albano Afonso: Self-Portrait as Light; and Pop Stars! Popular Culture and Contemporary Art. In addition to featuring works from the 21c collection, these exhibitions also include loans from other museums, galleries, and artists. Since 2006, 21c has collaborated on arts initiatives with artists and cultural organizations worldwide, including Contemporary Arts Center, Cincinnati, MASSMoCa, North Carolina Museum of Art, Speed Art Museum, Contemporary Art Museum Houston, Creative Capital Foundation, and others.