Knobkerry: An Oral History Sourcebook

Sara Penn’s Knobkerry: An Oral History Sourcebook is the culmination of a years-long oral history project, conceived and developed by writer and oral historian Svetlana Kitto, that begins to demarcate a potential sphere of influence for artist and designer Sara Penn (1927-2020) and Knobkerry, the store she founded and ran in New York City.

From the early 1960s, Knobkerry traded in textiles and ethnographic objects, which Penn expertly transformed into coveted patchwork garments and arranged in elaborate and densely layered displays. In Penn’s hands, these items registered the local effects of globalization, including increased access to objects of international trade, eager markets for fashionable multiculturalism, and a conflicted relationship to American identity. At the same time, the store served as an important physical and social space for a network of Black intellectuals, musicians, and artists, and for a broader subset of cultural and subcultural figures passing through New York.

Author(s): Svetlana Kitto

Paperback, Sculpture Center, New York Consolidated, 2021
193 p, 6.5 × 9.45 in

Photo by Charles Benton