Dawoud Bey began his career as an artist in 1975 with a series of photographs, Harlem, USA, that were later exhibited in his first one-person exhibition at the Studio Museum in Harlem in 1979. He has since had numerous exhibitions worldwide, at such institutions as the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Brooklyn Museum, the Detroit Institute of Arts, the Fogg Art Museum at Harvard University, the High Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago, the Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Museum of Modern Art, NY, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Whitney Museum of American Art, and other museums worldwide. His works are included in the permanent collections of over fifty museums throughout the United States and Europe.
His many museum-based projects have been focused on making those institutional spaces more accessible to the communities in which they are situated. He has been particularly concerned with making those spaces more accessible to young people through his participatory projects. These projects have been completed with a wide range of institutions, including the Addison Gallery of American Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, Detroit Institute of Arts, Walker Art Center, Wadsworth Atheneum, Wexner Center for the Arts, and the National Portrait Gallery, London among many others. His curatorial projects have included a number of exhibitions curated for such institutions as the Addison Gallery of American Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, DePaul Art Museum, Hyde Park Art Center, Museum of Contemporary Photography, the Walters Art Museum, and the Weatherspoon Art Museum.
Bey’s work is included in numerous publications, and is the subject of several monographs and publications, including Class Pictures (Aperture, 2007), Harlem, USA (Yale University Press, 2012), Picturing People (Renaissance Society at the University of Chicago, 2012), and Dawoud Bey: The Birmingham Project (Birmingham Museum of Art, 2013). In 2018 a major forty-year retrospective publication, Dawoud Bey: Seeing Deeply, will be published by the University of Texas Press.
Bey is a recipient of a 2017 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Fellowship, also known as “the Genius Grant,” a United States Artists fellow, and the recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Lucie Foundation, among others honors.
Dawoud Bey holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale University School of Art, and is currently Professor of Art and a former Distinguished College Artist at Columbia College Chicago, where he has taught since 1998.