Describing herself as ‘a collector of souls’, Neel worked in New York during a period in which figurative painting was deeply unfashionable. Crowned the ‘court painter of the underground,' her canvases celebrate those who were too often marginalised in society: labour leaders, Black and Puerto Rican children, pregnant women, Greenwich Village eccentrics, civil rights activists and queer performers. A member of the US Communist Party, Neel and her radical portraits caught the attention of the FBI. In recent years, the politics of her work has given her cult status among a younger generation of artists.
Organised in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou, Paris, this exhibition brings together over 70 of Neel’s most vibrant portraits, shown alongside archival photography and film, bringing to life what she called ’the swirl of the era’.