Mia acquired the whimsically animated figures of Remembering Vienna III, by Camille Billops, in 2021. They’re now on display, for the first time at Mia, in the lobby.
Billops was a pillar of New York City’s Black cultural community from the 1960s onward—an artist, filmmaker, archivist, and educator. She was a lifelong social activist committed to civil rights and feminism, and she documented, preserved, and championed Black culture. Much of her creative expression, however, derived from her own experiences and memories.
“All of my work is about the celebration of family, my private stories, and personal vision,” Billops noted in a 1985 interview. She later explained, “When I do figures, I refer back to the forms I saw as a child: the décolletés and sleeves of my mother’s dresses, the fabrics, my father’s suit lapels.”
Indeed, the two figures comprising Remembering Vienna III—part of a series of sculptures completed in the mid-1980s—are as personal as it gets: ceramic portraits of Billops and her husband, the late playwright and theater professor James V. Hatch. In 1975, one year before Black History Month was formally established, the couple founded the Hatch-Billops Collection, a research library of African American historical documents focusing on the arts. Housed at Emory University, in Atlanta, the collection is a pivotal resource in preserving printed materials by Black writers and artists.