Collecting African American Art

Dr. Mary Schmidt Campbell, former Executive Director of the Studio Museum in Harlem, has stated " give an object a home." (-) "At the most private and personal level, that is the goal of the serious collector. Exercising taste, judgement, an intense love of a culture and its traditions, motivated by a caring not only for the visual forms of an artifact... but also a caring for the - creative willfullness - of a culture or an individual, the real collector feels a deep and abiding kinship with the objects he collects."

The life enhancement that a piece of art generates for a collector is the most valid reason for selecting any art work. Collector motivation should be not solely whether a work of art will appreciate financially, but should be based on a link, a kinship, a connection with the essence and life force of the work. 'The thing about art is that you only hold it in trust. There's a living spirit in a great work of art. If you see it only in terms of its monetary value, the circle of communication is incomplete," states Corrine Jennings of the Kenkeleba-Gallery, New York. An astute art collector will see the value of an artist's work long before the investment oriented art collector takes note. A connoisseur with a sensitive eye uses esthetics rather than economic considerations in acquiring art work. Only esthetics is intrinsic to the art work. Economic or investment appreciation may be considered for the long run after the collector has found some valid esthetic reason to purchase a piece of art.

African Americans are purchasing Black Art because some have available more disposable funds and now have the means to collect art and support Black artists. In addition, African Americans now desire to make a cultural statement concerning their identity that the silk dress, expensive vacation or BMW can't make. Non-African Americans purchase Black art because it offers a means to diversify an already established collection, i.e. art from the perspective of the African American artists hanging next to art rendered from the perspective of an Oriental or European artist and so on. Moreover, African American art is a "bargain" in terms of prices paid for other art. These new patrons have also helped to make the market stronger for Black art and to make African American art more and more of an investment.

Nonetheless, the link, the kinship, the connection, the life enhancement, the circle of communication, the esthetic value should be a collector's primary motivation for acquiring art work. Should a piece of art appreciate over time, then that's a plus.