The Time is Always Now

Artists Reframe the Black Figure



ISBN: 9781855145580 Category:


The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure edited by Ekow Eshun celebrates flourishing Black artists whose work illuminates the richness, beauty and complexity of Black life.

“There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now.” – James Baldwin

‘Angry, elegiac, critical and celebratory, The Time Is Always Now brings together 22 leading black artists working in the UK and US.’ – The best art and architecture shows to visit in 2024, The Guardian

The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe the Black Figure assembles contemporary African diasporic artists working in the UK and US whose practice foregrounds the Black figure. Edited and with texts by Ekow Eshun, and original essays by Bernardine Evaristo, Esi Edugyan and Dorothy Price.

Published to coincide with the exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, this publication explores and celebrates contemporary Black artists internationally who work within Black figuration.

This visual and beautifully produced book examines contemporary figurative artworks against a backdrop of heightened cultural visibility. Within this context, its collected paintings, drawings and sculptures take on a dual role as the accomplished work of individual artists and as a collective assertion of Black presence.

Through a three-part structure containing detailed artist profiles and stunningly reproduced artworks, the publication examines Black figuration as a means to address the absence and distortion of Black presence within Western art history.

Profiled artists include Hurvin Anderson, Michael Armitage, Jordan Casteel, Njideka Akunyili Crosby, Noah Davis, Godfried Donkor, Kimathi Donkor, Denzil Forrester, Lubaina Himid, Claudette Johnson, Titus Kaphar, Kerry James Marshall, Toyin Ojih Odutola, Chris Ofili, Jennifer Packer, Thomas J. Price, Nathaniel Mary Quinn, Lorna Simpson, Amy Sherald, Henry Taylor and Barbara Walker.

Additional information

Weight 1442 g
Dimensions 25.5 x 30.5 cm
Publisher name National Portrait Gallery Publications
Publication date 14 May 2024
Number of pages 208
Format Hardback
Contributors Edited by Ekow Eshun, Text by Bernardine Evaristo, Esi Edugyan, and Dorothy Price
Dimensions 25.5 x 30.5 cm
Weight 1442 g


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Ekow Eshun is a British writer, curator, and broadcaster. Described as a 'cultural polymath' by The Guardian, he has been a trailblazing voice at the heart of creative culture in Britain for three decades. He was the first black editor of a major magazine in the UK with Arena, and the first black director of a major arts organisation, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, in London. Eshun is the author of In the Black Fantastic (2022), Black Gold of the Sun (2005), nominated for the Orwell prize, and Africa State of Mind (2020), nominated for the Lucie Photo Book Prize.

British writer Bernardine Evaristo is the author of ten books and numerous writings that span the genres of fiction, verse fiction, short fiction, non-fiction, poetry, essays, literary criticism, journalism, and radio and theatre drama. Bernardine's novel Girl, Woman, Other won the Booker Prize 2019. She was the first black woman and black British person to win it in its 50-year history. Evaristo has received over 76 awards, nominations, fellowships and honours, and her books have been a Book of the Year sixty times. She was voted one of 100 Great Black Britons in 2020 and made the Black Powerlist 100 in 2021, 2022 and 2023.

Canadian writer Esi Edugyan is the internationally bestselling author of Washington Black (2018), which won the Scotiabank Giller Prize. It was chosen by both the New York Times and Barack Obama as one of the best books of 2018, and is being made into a Disney/Hulu limited series co-produced by Edugyan. Her other novels include The Second Life of Samuel Tyne (2004) and Half-Blood Blues (2011), shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2011. Edugyan is also the author of Out of the Sun: Essays at the Crossroads of Race (2022) and Dreaming of Elsewhere: Observations on Home (2014).

Professor Dorothy Price FBA is Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art and Critical Race Art History at The Courtauld Institute of Art, in London. She is co-author of Making Modernism (2022) and former editor of Art History journal, publishing Rethinking British Art: Black Artists and Modernism with Sonia Boyce in 2021. Price is currently working on Art History: A Critical Introduction to its Methods (2024) and Framing the Critical Decade: After the Black Arts Movement (2024). She curated Claudette Johnson (2023) at The Courtauld Gallery, Making Modernism (2022-3) at the Royal Academy, and for the same institution, is curating Entangled Pasts (2024).