The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century

The story of hip hop's resounding influence on art and fashion.

The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century (2023) by Baltimore Museum of ArtThe Baltimore Museum of Art

The Culture, co-organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art and the Saint Louis Art Museum, shows the depth and breadth of hip hop's impact on art and fashion over the past 23 years, from the street to the runway, from the artist's studio to the museum.    

The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century by Baltimore Museum of ArtThe Baltimore Museum of Art

The Culture explores hip hop's dominance through more than 100 works of art and fashion, organized by theme: Language, Brand, Adornment, Tribute, Pose, and Ascension.

Untitled (Large Multicolored Teardrop Vase) (2009) by LA IIThe Baltimore Museum of Art


Hip hop is intrinsically an art form about language: the visual language of graffiti, a musical language that includes scratching and sampling, and, of course, the written and spoken word.  

Ride or Die (2005) by Gajin FujitaThe Baltimore Museum of Art

A Japanese Edo-era samurai rides into battle on horseback, assailed by an onslaught of piercing arrows. An L.A. Dodgers logo is emblazoned on his otherwise traditional helmet. Perhaps referencing the Edo-era printmaker’s mark, a variety of graffiti tags engulf the rider.

I Had A Dream I Could Buy My Way To Heaven (Portrait of Ota Benga) (2022) by Ernest Shaw Jr.The Baltimore Museum of Art

Don’t Talk To Me About No Significance Of Art (2021) by SHIRTThe Baltimore Museum of Art

In this work, 32 contemporary artists and thinkers considered if a rap song can be called significant art. The artist based the concept on a 1922 issue of the experimental arts journal Manuscripts (MSS), where contributors offered opinions on the medium of photography.

Fendi (2018) by Jordan CasteelThe Baltimore Museum of Art


“I’m not a businessman, I’m a business, man!” exclaimed Jay-Z in 2005. Whether designing fashion, recording music, or making art, artists blur the boundaries between these art forms, between being in business and being the business.

Z E L L A (2022) by Murjoni MerriweatherThe Baltimore Museum of Art


Adornment in the culture of hip hop can resist Eurocentric ideals of beauty and challenge concepts of taste and decorum. 

Memento (2020-2022) by Bruno BaptistelliThe Baltimore Museum of Art

Artist Bruno Baptistelli placed himself into the long history of cosmetic dentistry. Mounted on a stand, covered with a vitrine, and evoking the phrase memento mori (Latin for “remember that you must die”) in the title, the artist treats gold teeth with reverence.

CAMOUFLAGE #105 (Metropolis) (2020) by Anthony Olubunmi AkinbolaThe Baltimore Museum of Art

Anthony Akinbola cut, stretched, stitched & collaged black durags into a shimmering surface. This flexible headscarf offers protection for Black hair & is worn as a fashion statement in its own right.

Street Shrine 1: A Notorious Story (Biggie) (2019) by Roberto LugoThe Baltimore Museum of Art


As visual artists trace hip hop’s lineage through tribute, they challenge the art historical canon. They ask who is iconic and whose histories are valued.

Ascent (2017) by John EdmondsThe Baltimore Museum of Art


Hip hop is a cultural form that artists use to process, grieve, and remember those lost. 

The Unveiling of God / a love letter to my forefathers is an operatic visual poem that celebrates the Black men in the lives of artists NIA JUNE, Kirby Griffin, and APoetNamedNate.

Setta's Room 1996 (2022) by Tschabalala SelfThe Baltimore Museum of Art


Hip hop’s aesthetics of the body refuse to conform to one standard and instead open up new ideas of what the body can say.

Open (2021) by Monica IkegwuThe Baltimore Museum of Art

Closed (2021) by Monica IkegwuThe Baltimore Museum of Art

Bruja Cybernetica (2022) by Caitlin CherryThe Baltimore Museum of Art

A parade of performers, including hip-hop duo City Girls, rapper Bia, and avatars from the game “The Sims 4,” forms a wavering grid. In the bottom right corner, the presence of an anonymous white cameraman suggests how these women play with power dynamics.

Co-organized by the Baltimore Museum of Art (BMA) and Saint Louis Art Museum (SLAM), The Culture: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art in the 21st Century is co-curated by Asma Naeem, the BMA’s Dorothy Wagner Wallis Director; Gamynne Guillotte, the BMA’s Chief Education Officer; Hannah Klemm, SLAM’s Associate Curator of Modern and Contemporary Art; and Andréa Purnell, SLAM’s Audience Development Manager.

The Culture is further supported by an advisory committee comprising experts and artists across a wide range of disciplines, including Martha Diaz, Founder and President of the Hip-Hop Education Center; Wendel Patrick, professor at the Peabody Music Conservatory at Johns Hopkins University; Tef Poe, rapper and activist; Hélio Menezes, anthropologist and curator of Afro-Atlantic Histories; and Timothy Anne Burnside, public historian and Museum Specialist in Curatorial Affairs at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

The exhibition is generously supported by the Ford Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional support is provided by The Alvin and Fanny B. Thalheimer Exhibition Endowment Fund, the Victor J. Schenk Trust, Patricia Lasher and Richard Jacobs, Lorayne and Jim Thornton, Clair Zamoiski Segal, and Paul L. Oostburg Sanz and Tonya Robinson.

Beats, rhymes, culture and finances for this exhibition are generously provided by hip hop ambassadors “DJ Fly Guy” Flynn & Nupur Parekh Flynn, inventor of BAGCEIT®

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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