fbpx Biennale Arte 2022 | Augusta Savage
La Biennale di Venezia

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Augusta Savage

1892 – 1962, USA

  • TUE - SUN
    23/04 > 25/09
    11 AM - 7 PM

    27/09 > 27/11
    10 AM - 6 PM
  • Central Pavilion
  • Admission with ticket

Augusta Savage is regarded as one of the great artist-educator-activists of the Harlem Renaissance, throughout which she forged a pioneering career as a sculptor. Many of Savage’s touchstone works are expressive portrait busts of Black leaders, but her biggest and best-known piece is one that no longer exists. In 1937, Savage received a commission from the New York World’s Fair to create a sculpture for the international exposition. Inspired by the song Lift Every Voice and Sing by civil rights activist and poet James Weldon Johnson, Savage transformed his hymn into a monumental sculpture, retitled by fair organisers as The Harp. At nearly five metres tall, the mammoth plaster-cast object was finished to look like black basalt, from which a group of singers in neatly pleated robes arose like columns in graduated heights. Meant to symbolise the strings of a harp – and the liberatory message of Johnson’s work – the soundboard takes the form of an arm while a man donning everyday pants and shoes kneels. When the work debuted in 1939 at the World’s Fair’s, no funds  were available to cast it in bronze or store it. It was destroyed after the fair ended; left behind are only preparatory models, including the bronze presented in Venice, to record the colossal power of this essential work of the Harlem Renaissance.

Madeline Weisburg


Augusta Savage, Lift Every Voice and Sing (The Harp), 1939. Bronze, 27.3 × 24.1 × 10.2 cm. Photo Ryan Fairbrother.
Courtesy Thomas G. Carpenter Library, Special Collections and University Archives, Jacksonville, FL: University of North Florida

Central Pavilion
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