Lynching Tree by Steve McQueen
At the Gardner Museum
By: Gardner - Jan 10, 2024
“Museums are not simply repositories of art. They humanize the landscape of human events. They connect us to life’s most enduring themes. I have long felt this way about the Gardner, and feel it particularly keenly about a work that will be specially presented at the Museum January 20–February 4, 2024.”
So begins Lee Pelton’s guest post on the Gardner Museum’s blog discussing the special, limited-run exhibition that will soon open at the Museum, co-curated by Pelton, President of the Boston Foundation, and Peggy Fogelman, Norma Jean Calderwood Director of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.
For two weeks, the chapel-like Fenway Gallery will exhibit a single photograph: British artist and filmmaker Steve McQueen’s Lynching Tree. The photograph was taken by the artist while scouting locations for his film 12 Years a Slave; 2024 marks the ten year anniversary of McQueen becoming the first Black director to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The single photograph has only been exhibited in the United States once before: at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven in 2022, where Lee Pelton first encountered it.
In his blog post, Lee Pelton shares his personal, deeply emotional response to seeing the photograph and what it means to have this exhibition in Boston. While McQueen’s piece serves as a memorial to lives brutally stolen in the past, it remains urgently relevant. As Pelton writes, “Lynching Tree is a truth-teller. It is emblematic. It calls on us to look history square in the face and not turn away—but rather see a thing as it truly is in itself—so that we might, if we have the courage to do so, first acknowledge and then, seek to repair the harm that has been done.”
You can read the entirety of Lee Pelton’s powerful post on Lynching Tree here.