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Brooklyn Museum Spike Lee Exhibit


From Oct. 7, 2023, through Feb. 4 the Brooklyn Museum held the Spike Lee: Creative Sources exhibit. 

The exhibit gave a glimpse into the world of one of the most prominent and prolific directors and producers of our time. The Brooklyn native is known for creating films that examined a variety of political topics, including urban poverty/crime, the role of media in modern life, racial relations, and other issues within the black community.

Lee has deep ties to Brooklyn as he was raised and has a devout love for Brooklyn. A quote displayed in the exhibit exemplifies this that says “There’s something about Brooklyn. It’s the people, the diversity, the culture, the people who make up this great borough. I mean I grew up here, and it’s developed the person who I am and who I’ve become, and so therefore, that has been the subject of a lot of my films.”

Lee has many films set in Brooklyn as a part of his “Chronicle of Brooklyn” series including Crooklyn, Do the Right Thing, Clockers, He Got Game, and She’s Gotta Have It.

Fun fact: Lee hand-writes his scripts! Yes, it’s true! His leather-bound hand-written scripts are also on display.

But if you thought that this collection was limited to just movies, think again!

Lee is a well-known NY Knicks fan and his collection was nothing short of phenomenal. Introduced by his dad at a young age, Lee frequented Knicks games with him and has been a devout fan ever since.

In an interview for the Brooklyn Museum, he recounted the memory behind one of the most meaningful artifacts in this exhibition. On May 08, 1970 it was game seven of the NBA Championships where the Knicks were playing the LA Lakers and they won for the first time in history. Lee has the basketball net and an original ticket stub from this historic game.

In addition to his Knicks collection, Fort Greene native Michael Jordan also had a fair share of relics featured including signed posters and game-worn signed Jordans. Since Ebbets Field was only two miles from the Brooklyn Museum, when explaining why Robinson is featured in the exhibition Lee stated “When I think of Brooklyn, I think of Jackie [Robinson].”

Family ties can be seen all around the exhibition. Lee features musical pieces due to the heavy presence of music in his childhood. Lee’s brother, David Lee, is a photographer (and is the unit photographer for all of Spike’s films) and has his work featured as well. 

Lee also had many movie posters from other prominent directors, like Italian filmmaker Federico Fellini. Throughout his career, Lee became good friends with  Fellini and got signed posters of La Strada and 8 ½ before he passed in 1993.

In the musical section of the exhibition along with his familial pieces were other one-of-a-kind pieces. The late great Prince gifted Lee his unique “Love Symbol” guitar. Lee worked with Prince on several projects, even directing some of his music videos. Earth, Wind, and Fire bass player Verdine White and Talking Heads lead singer/guitarist David Byrne also gifted Lee guitars.

Using almost 450 pieces from his collection, Lee explores themes of Black history and culture, Brooklyn, sports, music, cinematic history, and family in his life and work. Prominent Black American artists, such as Deborah Roberts, Michael Ray Charles, and Kehinde Wiley, also had their artwork on exhibit. This included instruments, historical photos, sports and movie memorabilia, and more.

All of these pieces together illustrated the relationships between the individuals, locations, and concepts that have inspired Lee's prolific storytelling.

If you missed the exhibit, Spike’s production company 40 Acres and A  Mule, headquarters are down the street from the LIU Brooklyn campus where some of this work is on display!

Address: 75 Elliot Place, Brooklyn, NY 11217

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