Radcliffe Bailey (Photo by Lamont Hamilton)

Acclaimed Atlanta-based artist Radcliffe Bailey has died at age 54 after a battle with brain cancer, according to reports.

ARTnews said Bailey’s “sculptural assemblages and paintings elegantly summoned the past, present, and future of Black Americans through ready-made objects and images.”

Bailey was born in 1968 in Bridgetown, New Jersey, but moved to Atlanta when he was 4 years old. He told Art in America that his father was a railroad engineer and his ancestors had been involved with the Underground Railroad, which helped enslaved people escape to the North prior to the Civil War.

Travel would remain a constant source of interest and a recurring theme in his work. “I’ve always been fascinated by different forms of travel—by sea, by train, or into outer space and other realms,” he told Art in America in 2021.

His large-scale installation “Windward Coast” was presented as part of the First International Biennial of Contemporary Art of Cartagena de Indias in Colombia. He received the Joan Foundation Grant in 2008 and the Elizabeth and Mallory Factory Prize for Southern Art in 2010.

Bailey’s work is part of the permanent collections at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, the National Gallery and Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C., the Art Institute of Chicago, and the High Museum in Atlanta.

One of Bailey’s most public works can be seen at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. His mixed-media mural “Saints” is installed at Terminal E.

Bailey’s mixed-media mural “Saints” at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. (Courtesy City of Atlanta)

Mayor Andre Dickens said Bailey had “shaped Atlanta’s cultural landscape through his own unique, creative genius. While often bringing the intersectionality of ancestry, race, and art to the forefront of a discussion, his talent was both personal and accessible to our community.”

“I had the privilege of visiting with him Friday to express Atlanta’s gratitude for all his contributions to our city,” Dickens said in a statement. “Our administration has been working with his family and team on a fitting way to honor his incredible life and legacy, and we look forward to sharing those details in the near future. My thoughts are with his family and all who knew and loved him.”

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.