The first attention-grabbing image in the Brooklyn Museum’s new exhibit on director Spike Lee could be a wall projection of “Malcolm X,” the 1992 film starring Denzel Washington. Nearby hang artwork of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Trayvon Martin, whose assassination inspired the Black Lives Matter movement.
Elsewhere, a segregation-era sign reads “Colored Waiting Room.”
The African American History and Culture section is a jarring opening to an exhibit that guides visitors through themes, concepts and objects that inspired Lee, 66, as he became a defining figure in the black community. He donated more than 400 items for the “Spike Lee: Creative Sources” program, which premieres Saturday and runs through Feb. 4, 2024.
“You don’t really have to be an art buff to appreciate so much about this exhibit, because Spike is not only one, but he’s also a bibliophile, a sports fan and a history lover,” said Kimberli Gant, director of the exhibition. curator, she said.
Lee has been nominated for five Academy Awards, winning the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for “BlacKkKlansman” (2018). In addition to his popular films (he calls them “joints”) like “Do the Right Thing” and “Inside Man,” Lee has become a staple in Madison Square Garden’s courtside seats for games. of the New York Knicks.
At the Brooklyn Museum, walls splashed with bold colors contrast with wood details and paneling that turn the gallery spaces into what looks like a movie set. Visitors can tour seven sections divided into categories such as music and sports that Gant said he hoped would appeal to a broad group of people.
“I don’t want this show to be so heavy that you get depressed,” Gant said. “There’s a lot of heavy stuff, but there’s joy here, too.”
Lee, who was born in Atlanta but grew up in Brooklyn, has set many of his films in the boroughs of New York. One section of the exhibit features news articles about Lee in The Daily News and The New York Times, as well as a photograph of him as a child on the cover of New York magazine.
The room highlights “Do the Right Thing,” the 1989 film that examines racial tension between blacks and Italian Americans in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood. Memorabilia from the film, which was nominated for two Academy Awards and has been preserved by the National Film Registry, includes the Brooklyn Dodgers jersey that Lee wore as the character Mookie.
Large movie posters greet visitors in the section dedicated to film and film, where Lee’s Oscar trophy for “BlacKkKlansman,” as well as the honorary trophy he received in 2015 for lifetime achievement, can be found in a mounted display case. on the wall.
Gifts from other celebrities are also on display, including posters signed by “Jurassic Park” director Steven Spielberg and “Boyz N the Hood” director John Singleton. An adjacent room centered on the photograph has a letter written by former President Barack Obama.
The largest section of “Spike Lee: Creative Sources” is reserved for sports, with a small room solely for Knicks memorabilia. Those souvenirs include a jersey signed by Carmelo Anthony and a net from the 1970 NBA Finals, when the Knicks won their first title by defeating the Los Angeles Lakers in seven games.
A larger room contains autographed items from LeBron James, Serena Williams, Jim Brown and Michael Jordan, as well as news articles signed by Stephen Curry after he broke the NBA record for most career three-pointers made, a 2021 game at that Lee attended at the Garden. .
In keeping with the social justice theme of the exhibit’s entrance, large portions are dedicated to Jackie Robinson, the first black player in Major League Baseball, and boxer and activist Muhammad Ali. Near the exit is a jersey signed by Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who in 2016 sparked a fierce debate over the rights of athletes to protest by kneeling during the national anthem.