he Smithsonian National Portrait
Gallery, in Washington, DC, plays a
special role in honoring great Americans
who have defined our past and shape
our future. The collection of portraiture
puts faces to the names of people
whose achievements in the arts, the sciences, politics,
performance, and activism form our national identity
and characterize what it means to be an American.
Counted amongst these portraits is Fred, a painting
made by art professor Jane Dickson, which the
museum acquired in 2015.
Who is Fred?
Fred is a hip hop impresario, musician, painter and
former Yo MTV Raps VJ, Fab 5 Freddy, né Fred
Braithwaite. He was a key figure in the 1980s New York
City art scene, a fecund period that produced artists and
thinkers like Dickson, Robert Mapplethorpe, Jessica
Hagedorn, Philip Glass, and Susan Sarandon, among
Painted in acrylic on textured vinyl, Dickson made
the painting in 1982 while she worked alongside her
filmmaker husband Charlie Ahearn and Braithwaite on
Wild Style, the groundbreaking film about hip hop.