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MIAMI BEACH — The image was arresting. Screened on a wall of the Freehand Miami hotel, it showed a bikini-clad woman playing volleyball on the beach. The blowup itself was not extraordinary, except that its subject was black.

That photograph, first published in Ebony and Jet magazines in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s and now part of “The Black Image Corporation,” a Prada-sponsored art installation by Theaster Gates, was compelling enough to freeze Naomi Campbell in her tracks.

Sipping black tea on an upper floor of the hotel, the space tricked out like a midcentury living room in the tropics, Mr. Gates recalled Ms. Campbell’s reaction. “Naomi keeps saying to me, ‘Theaster, nobody ever showed me these images,’’’ he said. Growing up, as she told him, ‘all I saw was poverty, discrimination and protest images. Nobody ever told me that there was a black middle class.’”