The Time is Always Now: Artists Reframe Black Figure

Black figuration and portraiture as realized in the works of Amy Sherald, Jordan Casteel and other contemporary artists

“There is never a time in the future in which we will work out our salvation. The challenge is in the moment, the time is always now,” wrote James Baldwin. Published in conjunction with the eponymous exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery, London, The Time is Always Now is edited by curator Ekow Eshun, former director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. The book brings together 22 contemporary African diasporic artists working primarily in the United Kingdom and the United States, whose practices—whether through painting, drawing or sculpture—foreground the Black figure. Acknowledging the paradox of race as both a “socially constructed fiction” and a “lived reality,” as Eshun writes, The Time is Always Now celebrates these Black figurative artworks against a background of heightened cultural visibility.

Through a three-part structure, this book examines Black figuration as a means to address the absence and distortion of Black presence within Western art history. Each artist receives a detailed biographical profile alongside reproductions of their included works. The catalog is also supplemented by three original essays from Dorothy Price, Professor of Modern and Contemporary Art and Critical Race Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art; Bernardine Evaristo, Booker Prize–winning author of Girl, Woman, Other; and Esi Edugyan, two-time Giller Prize winner for her novels Half-Blood Blues and Washington Black.

Editor: Ekow Eshun.
Contributor(s): Bernardine Evaristo, Esi Edugyan, Dorothy Price

Hardcover, National Portrait Gallery, 2024
192 p, 9.8 × 12 in.