24 Oct 2020 – 21 Feb 2021

Duel – McArthur Binion. Modern Ancient Brown

Curated by

Lorenzo Bruni

Tickets & Hours Arrow

Where and when


24October 2020


21February 2021

Museo Novecento

I developed the idea of ​​Modern Ancient Brown 40 years ago. I wanted my work: 1) to be contemporary 2) to have a historicity 3) to honor the Black and Brown painters who came before me. It is also a kind of self-portrait: McArthur Binion and Modern Ancient Brown: MAB and MAB.

-McArthur Binion

Exhibition Hours


Monday – Sunday

11:00 am

8:00 pm


Modern Ancient Brown is the first solo show in a European institution by the well-known African American artist McArthur Binion, curated by Lorenzo Bruni and organized in collaboration with the Massimo De Carlo gallery in Milan / London / Hong Kong.

The Museo Novecento gets to the heart of the most urgent issues of our time, such as that of civil rights and the fight against racism, and it does so by presenting the works of an artist who has been involved in this field for decades, both with his pictorial work and with his civic and didactic commitment.

Modern Ancient Brown, the title given to the project, is also the name of the foundation established by Binion in 2019 in Detroit born to promote the work of black artists who are dedicated to the interdisciplinarity between visual arts and literature and whose work has historically been under-represented . The intense dialogue that the artist – who started his career as a poet – has created with the spaces of the Museo Novecento is an important response to this last year crossed by the world pandemic, by the movements of Black Lives Matter and by a general rethinking of part of the museums on their role of preserving and proposing cultural proposals in a global world and still in its long post-colonial phase.

The works on display, all from 2020, were created specifically for the spaces of the Florentine museum and for the Duel exhibition cycle, conceived by the artistic director of the Museo Novecento Sergio Risaliti. In addition to the works on paper of the Healing: work series, the twelve works Altar: work I-XII – which reflect on the limit and the matter of monochrome – and the large altarpiece on board entitled Modern Ancient Brown-Altar, will be presented in world premiere (from 24 October to 8 November) the documentary Stuttering: Standinf: Still (Afterthoughts) by filmmaker Marika Mairova dedicated to the artist, commissioned for the June 2020 edition of Art Basel postponed due to the pandemic.

McArthur Binion has been engaged since the 1970s in the search for an alternative to minimalist art, through his personal philosophy of the pictorial grid placed in dialogue with autobiographical elements ranging from the pages of his phone book to the rediscovered photographs of racial lynchings. The project, presented at the Museo Novecento and the result of two years of investigation, had its genesis in the conception of a large abstract work on wood, which will be placed in the pre-existing frame above the altar of the Renaissance chapel on the ground floor of the museum. which is one of the three rooms dedicated to the Duel exhibition cycle.

The other works of the artist, which interact with the other two environments, consist of two pictorial cycles animated by the same research on the legacy of modernist abstract painting in relation to a wider context, that is to the need of human society to leave traces and history of oneself, but at the same time of projecting oneself into the future. This approach has led McArthur Binion to amplify his research around an artistic gesture that includes both pictorial and sculptural practice, both an absolute and monochromatic dimension, and a compound of intimate and personal narratives.
The artist, to reflect on this process from an unprecedented point of view, has chosen to dialogue with the small terracotta Head of a Woman from the Alberto Della Ragione Collection in the permanent collection of the museum, which the sculptor Marino Marini created in 1939 the last one struck Binion for his particular intimate fragility, very distant from the equestrian monuments he had seen previously, and for that gesture of the Tuscan artist to engrave the clay giving life to the hair, the only part that humanizes the “head”, which rather it seems to come from an archaic and historyless time. This connection allows to explore the plastic way of understanding painting by Binion at the base of the Healing: work cycle, works in which the monochrome color is intertwined with a paper surface composed of repeated squares of sheets taken from his personal agenda or from other sources.

The sheets of the diary also make up the basis of the great work placed on the Modern Ancient Brown-Altar which investigates, in this case, the relationship that is created between the grid that emerges from the cards and that created by the lines of the oil color with which is amplified and denied. The twelve works Altar: works I-XII are made on a particular paper and deal with the same shape of the altarpiece in a different way, in addition to the ability of color to emerge even if covered with multiple layers.


McArthur Binion

1946, Macon, Missisipi, USA

Curated by

Lorenzo Bruni

Organization and Coordination

Francesca Neri

Stefania Rispoli


Elisa di Lupo

Press Office Comune di Firenze

Ludovica Zarrilli

Tabloid Soc. Coop.

Lea Codognato | Caterina Briganti




Visual Identity

FRUSH design studio


Dania Menafra


Ph Credits

Serge Domingie

In collaboration with

Galleria Massimo De Carlo Milano/Londra/Hong Kong