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Portrait of Nora Lawrence on a

Curator Destinee Ross-Sutton on Amplifying Black Voices and the Importance of Self-Care

At just 25 years old, Destinee Ross-Sutton is already being considered an important art-world player. She has curated her own exhibition at Christie’s, and she has said she wants to use her platform to elevate the next generation of Black artists. Ross-Sutton recently sat down with Brooke Jaffe for “ARTnews Live,” our ongoing IGTV series of interviews with a range of creatives.

Ross-Sutton’s career is on the rise. For the September 2020 cover of InStyle magazine featuring Zendaya, Ross-Sutton was brought in to curate the art for the photoshoot. “It was really just about this coming together of Black creatives,” she explained. Not only does she provide a platform for black artists, she also provides them with inspiration. Ross-Sutton has sat for portraits by Kehinde Wiley, Amoako Boafo, and Derrick Adams. Yet a desire to create a network of Black creatives also underpins her curatorial work.

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Portrait of Nora Lawrence on a

In July, Christie’s tapped Ross-Sutton to curate a virtual exhibition for its CSR Diversity & Inclusion Initiatives. The exhibit, titled “Say it Loud,” presented 40 works by 22 emerging and mid-career Black artists. The young curator demanded that the artists involve receive 100 percent of the proceeds of the sale of their work at the auction—an unusual stipulation within the auction world.

“I saw a poster in Times Square where it said ‘We support the nurses,’ and the only thing I could think was that money could have went toward donating gear for those nurses on the front lines,” Ross-Sutton said. “That’s sort of how I thought… These people need to eat, they need to support themselves, some of them support their entire families, and that’s just something we have to be aware of sometimes.” Her favorite works in the exhibition include Eniwaye Oluwaseyi’s Nice meeting you too (2020) and Collins Obijiaku’s Untitled (2020).

In April, Ross-Sutton curated a show at CFHILL in Stockholm, titled “Black Voices/Black Microcosm.” The head curator at the art space, Sandra Weil, initially reached out to Ross-Sutton through her Instagram. Soon enough, the pandemic began, causing travel bans and other complications, but that did not stop the young curator from successfully organizing the show from afar.

The curatorial theme for that exhibit was based on an Audre Lorde quote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation.” In a chaotic year, self-care “is seen as an act of revolution,” Ross-Sutton said, adding, “people, especially people of color, just enjoying themselves—it’s often perceived as a threat.”

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