Reclaiming Black Women in Visual Culture

20 Jul - 24 Sep 2023
Pay What You Can

We want our events to be as accessible as possible, therefore this exhibition is Pay What You Can. We are asking visitors who are able to do so to consider making a donation to support the work of Somerset House.

Opening Times

Mon 10.00 - 18.00 (last entry 17.30)
Tue 10.00 - 18.00 (last entry 17.30)
Wed 10.00 - 18.00 (last entry 17.30)
Thu 12.00 - 21.00 (last entry 20.30)
Fri 12.00 - 21.00 (last entry 20.30)
Sat 10.00 - 18.00 (last entry 17.30)
Sun 10.00 - 18.00 (last entry 17.30)
Terrace Rooms &
Courtyard Rooms

An exhibition examining the historical representation and shifting legacy of Black women in visual culture.

Reflecting on the shocking representation of the ‘Hottentot Venus’ in the 19th century, 18 artists refocus the othering of Black women

The Guardian


The Observer

The myth of Venus is a complicated one and this fascinating show rises to the challenge

The Sunday Times

Curated by Aindrea Emelife, BLACK VENUS brings together the work of 18 Black women and non-binary artists to explore the othering, fetishisation and reclamation of narratives around Black femininity. 

BLACK VENUS celebrates and explores the many faces of Black femininity, with over 40 contemporary and primarily photographic artworks. The exhibition’s contemporary works offer a radical affront to a centuries-long dynamic of objectification, showcasing all that Black womanhood can be and has always been. 

The exhibition mines the complex narratives of Black womanhood through the lens of three archival depictions of Black women: the Hottentot Venus, the Sable Venus, and the Jezebel, dating between 1793 to 1930. These works serve to contextualise historical depictions of Black women and the caricaturing of the Black body. With these three thematic pillars, BLACK VENUS examines the shifting image of the Black woman in visual culture and the complex lived experience that informs the work of cross-generational women and non-binary artists today. 

Having debuted in 2022 at New York’s Fotografiska, BLACK VENUS’s presentation at Somerset House features a new reworking of the themes with over 19 new works and 6 UK-based artists in the line-up. 

Participating artists include: Sonia Boyce, Widline Cadet, Shawanda Corbett, Renee Cox, Delphine DialloDelphine Diallo featuring Joanne Petit-FrèreAyana V Jackson, Zanele Muholi, Amber Pinkerton, Tabita Rezaire, Coreen Simpson, Lorna Simpson, Ming Smith, Maud Sulter, Kara Walker, Maxine Walker, Carrie Mae Weems, Alberta Whittle and Carla Williams.

Header image: (L) to (R) 1. Ayana V. Jackson, Anarcha , 2017 © Courtesy of the Artist and Mariane Ibrahim. 2. Delphine Diallo, Highness – Hybrid 1, 2011. Featuring: Joanne Petit-Frère, Nefertiti’s Return Crown, 2010-2011 & Nefertiti’s Return Face Shield, 2010-2011.  © Courtesy of MTArt, Delphine Diallo, Joanne Petit-Frère & JoGoesWest. 3. Ming Smith, Me as Marilyn, 1991 © Courtesy of the artist and Pippy Houldsworth Gallery, London.