Hakeem Adewumi


Hakeem Adewumi is a Texas-based Nigerian photographer and creative director who explores Blackness, identity, culture, and sexuality. He uses the camera to capture intimate portraits that reveal moments of individual experiences and shared histories. In July 2023 Adewumi escaped the heat of the Lone Star State to live and work at the Gardner. During his residency he enjoyed special access to the Collection, archives, greenhouses, and went behind the scenes to the conservation labs. His nighttime Flashlight Tour of the galleries was another highlight as it presented an opportunity to experiment with light, shadow, and reflections in a way he could not during the day.

Around the time Adewumi arrived, two artworks moved to the conservation lab for study. Gardner installed the Alter of Saint Maurice high above the fireplace in the Gothic Room. In addition to St Maurice, the central figure had also been attributed to several other saints including Joan of Arc and St George. Adewumi examined the carved and painted figures and learned about its history and the team’s technical analysis of the object. The other artwork in the lab was the Black Glass Madonna. Until recently this extraordinary piece, constructed using a variety of glass techniques, was impossible to see. Stanchions and low lighting blocked its view on the North side of the Veronese Room. Outside of its vitrine, Adewumi was able to get a close look at the artwork’s fine details and craftsmanship. Little was known about it except that it was purchased by Gardner from the Venetian dealer Michelangelo Guggenheim in 1897. New and exciting research conducted in 2023 helped piece together evidence that it likely originated from the Innsbruck Court Glasshouse of Archduke Ferdinand II of Austria (1529 - 1595).

Adewumi gained a greater appreciation of the work and care that goes into the Courtyard garden on his trip to the Museum’s greenhouses. Here he was introduced to plants in all stages of their life cycles. These included the tall Campanula pyramidalis in the hot house that would soon move into the Courtyard; the Chrysanthemums that were being cultivated for the annual fall display; a variety of orchids being divided and repotted after their bloom had passed; and in the cool house, dormant Zantedeschia aethiopica (Calla Lily) and Veltheimia bracteata (Forest Lily). The Forest Lily, or Cape Lily, is a native from South Africa where Adewumi had visited and one of the stars in the Courtyard’s Midwinter Tropics display. Afterwards, he roamed the greenhouses on his own, taking photographs and enjoying the abundant greenery of Ferns, Begonias, Flowering Maples, and Hydrangea.

Adewumi looked at several personal objects and photographs in the Archives. One item belonged to Gardner’s mother Adelia Smith Stewart; a scrapbook with miscellaneous prints, photographs, drawings, old sheet music and notes on phenology (about 1850). Another was a notebook from 1883 that Gardner used to jot down her History and Art History notes. He explored portraits Gardner collected of friends, acquaintances, prominent artists, musicians and writers of the 19th and early 20th century and a series of gelatin silver prints of the murals painted by John Singer Sargent at the Boston Public Library. Adewumi was also interested in correspondence and read letters to Gardner from Henry Sleeper, Eithne Magee, Sara Allgood, and Lady Augusta Gregory in addition to a privately published volume of letters from Gardner to A. Piatt Andrew written between 1907 and 1911.

During his time in Boston, Adewumi took advantage of several offerings around the city. He took a LGBTQ+ History of Beacon Hill Walking Tour and visited local art museums and galleries. He also traveled farther afield to the Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art in Hartford, CT to see Isaac Julien’s immersive film installation, I Am Seen…Therefore, I Am: Isaac Julien and Frederick Douglass. 

After graduating with a degree in African & African Diaspora Studies from the University of Texas at Austin, Hakeem Adewumi (b.1990, US) was awarded a Fulbright Fellowship scholarship to Johannesburg, South Africa. His work has been exhibited at the Houston Museum of African American Culture, Houston, TX; the George Washington Carver Museum and Culture Center, Austin, TX; the Janette Kennedy Gallery, Dallas, TX; and is in the collection of the Phyllis and Ross Escalette Permanent Collection, Chapman University. Over the years Adewumi has curated several pop-up exhibitions including the Juneteenth House Gallery Project in 2022. This project invited diverse members of the public to learn about Dallas’s Black History through archival images and modern interpretations of the Black experience. Adewumi is also the Creative Designer for The Theater Offensive, a Boston-based theater company that focuses on issues affecting queer and trans people of color. 

Adewumi was commissioned to create a new large-scale artwork for the Anne Fitzpatric Facade. This work will be on view June 4 - October 1, 2024.