Anna Arabindan-Kesson
Art historian, writer, curator


Anna Arabindan-Kesson is a historian of Black Diasporic Art.

Research and Curatorial Work


My research is predominantly focused on art and material culture from the eighteenth to the twenty-first century with an emphasis on histories of race, empire, and migration. I am completing my first book, under contract with Duke University Press, called Black Bodies White Gold: Art, Cotton and Commerce in the Atlantic World. It uses the networks created by the Anglo-American cotton trade to examine connections between art, slavery and colonialism in the nineteenth century and in contemporary art practice. Two other books are also in the works. My articles cover a range of topics from review essays to thematic articles on subjects including portraiture, landscape painting, photography. labor, history of medicine and  public art. My curatorial work, which I value enormously, has involved organizing and writing essays for several exhibitions including Embodied: Black Identities in American Art from the Yale University Art Gallery (2009) and Barkley Hendricks, O Snap! (2015).




Black Bodies, White Gold: Art, Cotton and Commerce in the Atlantic World, under contract with Duke University Press

in process:

The Global Plantation: Visual Vocabularies of Unfree Labor

with Mia L Bagneris, Beyond Recovery: Reframing the Dialogues of Early African Diaspora Art & Visual Culture

Book Chapters

“The Visual Culture of South Asians in Victorian Jamaica,” in Tim Barringer and Wayne Modest (eds.), Victorian Jamaica, (Durham, Duke University Press, 2018)
Link to more information

“From Salem to Zanzibar: Cotton and the Cultures of Commerce between Salem and East Africa, 1820-1861,” in Patricia Johnston and Caroline Frank, (eds.), Global Trade and Visual Culture in Federal New England (University of New England Press, 2014)
Link to book chapter


"Portraits in Black: Styling, Space and Self in the Work of Barkley L Hendricks and Elizabeth Colomba” in NKA: Journal of Contemporary African Art, Black Portraitures Issue, Fall 2016
Link to article

"Family Jules: Barkley L Hendricks and the Seventies Black Male Body” for Tate in Focus, Fall 2017
Link to article

"Dressing Up and Laying Bare: Fashion in the Shadow of the Marketplace,” Vestoj, July 2012 (London College of Fashion)
Link to article

Book Reviews

“Kerry James Marshall: Look, See” CAA Reviews, May 2018
Link to review

"Rewriting the Modern: New Perspectives on Romare Bearden and Archibald Motley,” Journal of American Studies December 2015, pp 1 - 5
Link to review

Exhibition Catalogues

“Unfolding Photographs, Experiencing Space: The Philadelphia Block Project in Context,” in The Philadelphia Block Project, (Philadelphia Photo Arts Center, January 2017)
Link to catalogue

“Portraits in Black” in The Moon is My Only Luxury, catalogue for Elizabeth Colomba, Long Gallery, Harlem, May 2016

“Opaque Space” in Camouflage Artist book for Didier William, Hap Gallery, Portland, Oregon, November 2015

“Displaced Embodiment” in Pamela Franks and Bob Steele, Embodied: Black Identities in American Art From the Yale University Art Gallery (Yale University Art Gallery Press, 2010)


Co-Curator for Barkley L Hendricks: Oh Snap!, Art Sanctuary, Philadelphia, May 1-July 30, 2015
Link to article about exhibition

Guest Curator for solo show by Stephanie J Williams, Emerging from the Curious: Commonplace Anomalies District of Columbia Arts Center (DCAC), Washington DC, 2012
Link to more information

Link to article about exhibition

Co-Curator of Embodied: Black Identities in American Art From the Yale University Art Gallery, David C Driskell Center University of Maryland, College Park, September 16th-October 29th, 2010, Yale University Art Gallery, February 18th- June 26th 2011.
Link to article about exhibition

Curatorial Assistant for John La Farge’s Second Paradise: Voyages in the South Seas, 1890-1891, October 21st 2010 – January 4th 2011, Yale University Art Gallery, Addison Gallery of American Art, January 22-March 11 2011.
Link to more information






Public Speaking