::: Understanding Collecting :::

Why Collect African-American Art?

The works of African American masters are taking their rightful place as repositories of human value – not just as appreciating investment assets - but as visual archives of our collective past, how we lived and loved, and how those talented masters of the canvas interpret the world around them. From the vernacular to the universal, the images of these artists are enjoyed by art enthusiasts all over the world. But what compels us to collect African-American fine art?

Consider this: literature, jazz, opera, Oscar-winning performances, and award-winning theatre. The contributions of African-Americans to these genres of the creative mind are renown from Boston to Beijing, from Miami to Monte Carlo. Who has not enjoyed the talents of Toni Morrison, Wynton Marsalis, Leontyne Price, Morgan Freeman, or August Wilson? But what of that art form which we can “read” a thousand times and never tire of its language? That is ready to engage us anytime we walk into a certain room? That we can enjoy in deepest quietude or to the siren sounds of Coltrane or the majesty of Mozart? That tells a moving story as our eyes move from corner to corner of a frame? That evokes all nuances of the human experience – pain, pleasure, hope, love – and all the colors of the soul? Such is the bounty of African-American art as it produced by masters of the craft.

We can approach black art because of what it offers in some nostalgic connection to images or memories that are distant in time or space. We can engage a work of art because of its concentrated magic to transform us – if only for a moment. And maybe we treasure the works of these artists for the visual metaphors they provide of how, we too, can be works of art. Of how we can create our destiny by each conscious choice we make much as that composite of fine art is created by its master by each brush stroke, by each minute arrangement of material upon a medium.

And then we acquire great art because in a world of quick consumption and fleeting fashions, we want something that is timeless. And as we age, that special work of art remains ageless – bestowed with a legacy of immortality that we can pass on to our heirs or to the greater public to be enjoyed and treasured decades, perhaps centuries, after we have claimed eternal rest. Fine watches and fine baubles exhibit wealth, but there is a nobility of the soul that is announced by the images we choose.

When we collect black art we expand our perceptual limits. We begin to understand that there is more to African-American art than Romare Bearden, just as there is more to great literature than James Baldwin – with all due respect to both of these departed giants of expression. And when we practice diversity in our collecting, just as we practice diversity in how and whom we employ at work, we enrich our perspective on that work-in-progress called society. And just as diversity in employment enhances our organizations, diversity in the images that grace our offices, public spaces, and homes enhances our lives. And that is part of the art of living!

Now let’s get practical. In an era of diminished economic expectations our finances may be more limited. And I would be less than candid if I didn’t acknowledge that slightly guilty pride of ownership and investment that motivates most serious collectors. Of course, we can and should own the works of Morrison and Marsalis. But imagine just how special it is to say (to your accountant): “I own a Mayhew!” Or a Yarde, or any of the artists I am honored to represent and/or feature in my gallery. In an economy where expectations have been reset, isn’t it spectacular that the primal forces of supply and demand will bestow their largesse on the prescient collector of emerging black masters? Consider whether African-American art is like tennis before Venus and Serena. Or will it have several breakout stars attracting interest to the field of art and raising to even higher levels the visibility of black art? Wisdom dictates that we should see in depth, not only while gazing at a picture, but also while assessing the future of this emerging market.

So, yes, I want you to enjoy what I enjoy. I want you to see the same “sunrise” that I see every time I walk the rooms of the gallery that is my home. This is the dawn of a new vista of American art. One poised to take its place on the horizon along other American and European masterworks. And our gallery is pleased to provide a panoramic window to this ascendant daybreak. Welcome to the joys of collecting!

  • Savoy:  Billie Holiday (Richard Yarde)
  • Savoy:  White Dress (Richard Yarde)
  • The Station Pictures For Miss Josie (Benny Andrews)
  • Bessie (Charles White)
  • Portrait of a Man (Edward Clark)
  • Civilizacao (Élon Brasil)
  • Consideration (Herbert Gentry)
  • Untitled #13 (Howardena Pindell)
  • Blue Horizon (Joseph Holston)
  • Scarlet Bush (Richard Mayhew)
  • Through Paper Weights (Sam Gilliam)