Black Velvet Paintings Through A New Lens

An historic, cultural look challenges the “low art” label.

An exhibit opening this weekend takes a cultural and historical look at black velvet paintings.

The exhibit is called Black Velvet – a Rasquache Aesthetic. It features more than 100 paintings. Some are historic. Some were made made for the show.

Elena Herrada is a co-curator of the exhibit. She said black velvet painting has been called kitsche, low art or bad art, but those judgments were colored by race and class.

“You know we grew up with black velvet paintings — and our parents and grandparents,” Herrada said. “It was an art form that they loved.”

Herrada said black velvet paintings often have religious or pop culture themes.

“It ranges from the Virgin of Guadalupe to Jesus to Elvis to Marilyn Monroe. My most recent acquisition is a Michael Jackson.”

The exhibit is being held at 2835 Bagley in Detroit – a spaced formerly used by DTE Energy. Doors open at noon. At 1 p.m., MSU’s Diana Rivera will talk about the history of black velvet painting.


  • Sascha Raiyn
    Sascha Raiyn is Education Reporter at 101.9 WDET. She is a native Detroiter who grew up listening to news and music programming on Detroit Public Radio.