The National Gallery of Art has acquired “The Flag Is Bleeding” by Faith Ringgold for its collection.
The painting, made in 1967, was part of the American People series by Faith Ringgold. The work, which is the first Ringgold painting in the gallery’s collection, was gifted by the Glenstone Foundation. The foundation is headed by art collector couple Emily and Mitchell Rales, the latter of whom is also the president of the board at National Gallery.
“The Flag Is Bleeding” depicts a white woman in the middle, holding the arms of a Black and white man. The entire image is built over the American flag. The Black man is placing one hand on his chest, while the other one is holding a knife. The entire image is bleeding, supposedly from a wound on a Black man. Experts have argued whether the Black man represents the whole community or the Black panthers in particular (with their characteristic hat). The painting also suggests the wound inflicted upon the Black community which impacts the entire country as a whole.
Harry Cooper (curator, National Gallery) said that although the gallery wanted to acquire a Ringgold work for a long time, they thought that it would be “too expensive” to acquire. However, when they reached out to Ringgold’s dealer, they were presented with a variety of options. Of them, they chose to go with “The Flag Is Bleeding”, which they believe to represent an important aspect of the country faithfully.
Faith Ringgold was known for her paintings that talked about the racial issues in America. The American flag was her favorite theme, considering it the only “truly subversive and revolutionary abstraction” one could paint upon. The acquisition of the painting comes just months before a Faith Ringgold retrospective due to open in February next year.