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Susan, Aarti, Keerthana and Princess, Sunday in Brooklyn (2018)

Aliza Nisenbaum

oil on linen

Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery

Susan, Aarti, Keerthana and Princess, Sunday in Brooklyn (2018)

© Aliza Nisenbaum. Photo courtesy the artist and Mary Mary, Glasgow.





Oil, Linen

Physical Object Description:

Oil painting with four figures on a sofa.


144.8 x 162.6 cm

Accession Number:

NWHCM : 2018.39


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society through Valeria Napoleone XX Contemporary Art Society (VNXX CAS), 2017/18

Ownership history:

Purchased from Mary Mary Gallery, Glasgow by Valeria Napoleone XX Contemporary Art Society (VNXX CAS), 2 April 2018; presented to Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery, 2017/18
A painting by Aliza Nisenbaum, who is known for her portraits of under-represented communities in the US, and who has been commissioned by the Contemporary Art Society for Norwich Castle Museum & Art Gallery through the Valeria Napoleone XX Contemporary Art Society (VNXX CAS) initiative. This scheme encourages debate on the gender imbalance in museum collections by donating work by a living female artist to a UK museum each year. It was during her time spent teaching English classes at the Immigrant Movement International (IMI), a community space in Queens, New York, started by Cuban-born artist and activist Tanya Bruguera, that Nisenbaum met and formed lasting relationships with the subjects in her portraits. Her deeply observed paintings are part of a socially engaged practice that challenges the social and representational hierarchies of traditional portraiture. For Nisenbaum, her subjects are not merely sitters, but are active collaborators who are depicted with grace, composure and a certain stature at a time when society treats them as largely invisible. Nisenbaum cites the work of Alice Neel as formative to her work, as well as the legacy of Mexican muralists. The intimacy of Neel’s work combined with the narrative sequences and political dimension of the muralists can be traced in her many-layered and expressive paintings.

For Nisenbaum, the backgrounds in her paintings are part of a larger narrative that speaks of the sitter and their own environments either at home or at work. Susan, Aarti, Keerthana and Princess, Sunday in Brooklyn depicts a two-mother mixed-race family with two strong-willed, joyful girls. Their collective heritage is Indian and African-American. They are a family that came together through immigration, adoption, and New York City and they are deeply committed to social justice and racial equity – both women have devoted their careers to advancing education and human rights.

This landmark acquisition for Norwich Castle Museum comes at an important moment when the museum is actively addressing the underrepresentation of art made by women in the collection. It also stands as the first work to enter the collection that represents women of colour. Susan, Aarti, Keerthana and Princess, Sunday in Brooklyn is showcased in ‘Visible Women’, an exhibition of work drawn from the modern and contemporary collection made by women. It looks specifically at the diverse roles occupied by women, how they see themselves and how they are seen by others. As Nisenbaum has said, ‘I’m interested in the politics of visibility: who and why someone is depicted… to pay attention to someone can be a political act’.

All rights reserved. Any further use will need to be cleared with the rights holder. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying, hiring, lending is prohibited. The collection that owns this artwork may have more information on their own website about permitted uses and image licensing options.

For further information, please consult our section of our copyright policy.

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