By Cheryl McGinnis
“Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow” exhibit runs through March 3, 2019
Jim Crow was a character created by a white actor for minstrel shows in NYC
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When Megyn Kelly made another in a series of racist comments last month, it wasn’t very surprising. However, her latest tirade about dressing up in blackface got me writing to NBC with historical facts based on a remarkable exhibit at the New-York Historical Society. It opened on September 6 and runs through to March 3, 2019 called Black Citizenship in the Age of Jim Crow.
Why This Matters: Here are some of the facts, NBC and Megyn Kelly overlooked: Jim Crow was a character created by a white actor for minstrel shows in NYC. During the time of a devastating failed Reconstruction that produced the Ku Klux Klan, white performer Thomas Dartmouth, aka Daddy Rice did a song and dance Jump Jim Crow or Jim Crow in blackface. Read More
By CultureBanx Team
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Chicago’s mayor, Rahm Emanuel is betting that artwork by Kerry James Marshall can help the city revive its West side. He announced a library in the area where one of Marshall’s paintings resides, would sell the artwork estimated to go for $10 million - $15 million at Christie’s auction house.
Why This Matters: Marshall’s painting “Knowledge and Wonder,” was completed in 1995 for the Legler branch of the Chicago Public Library, he originally received a fee of $10,000 for the mural. The building is in the city’s poorer West side, where black people make up nearly 44% of the population, according to The New York Times. Read More
By CultureBanx Team
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African American artist create some of the most compelling visual pieces of our generation, yet the fundamental shift in the way its valued is alarming. American museums continue to give these artist the short end of the stick, since less than three percent of their acquisitions over the past decade have been of works by black artists.
Why This Matters: Last spring, one of Jean-Michel Basquiat paintings sold for $110.5 million, becoming the most expensive work by an American artist ever sold at auction.This didn’t greatly move the needle in getting more museums to pick up other works by black artists. Since 2008, only 7.6% of all exhibitions at 30 prominent American museums have showcased art by African American artists, according to a joint investigation by In Other Wordsand artnet News. Read More
By CultureBanx Team
A 16-foot-tall bronze bust of a black woman will grace NYC’s High Line
Simone Leigh’s art pieces sell for $40,000 to $125,000
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Manhattan’s elevated outdoor walkway, the High Line will open its first section solely dedicated to art. High Line announced its inaugural project for the Plinth will be a 16-foot-tall bronze bust of a black woman by artist Simone Leigh. The art piece is titled “Brick House”, and is a reference to the 1977 disco-funk classic Motown hit by the Commodores.
Why This Matters: Leigh is beginning to garner worldwide attention for her work across sculpture, video and installation. She specializes on the intersection of African American feminism, as it relates to political and economic environments. Her work now sells from anywhere between $40,000 to $125,000. Read More
By Cheryl McGinnis
CBx Vibe: “Some More” Future
The Barnes collection in the city of brotherly love is home to one of the greatest groups of impressionists, including art from Renoir, Matisse and Picasso. Dr. Albert C. Barnes curated his collection from 1912-1951 and includes important pieces of African art.
Why This Matters: While Dr. Barnes did amass an envious collection, that included African art and artifacts and Native American pottery and jewelry, was he really was committed to African American artists? It seems that a man who had “deep holdings” of important artists, was woefully short on black artists within the region of Pennsylvania and the U.S. in general. Read More
By Jonathan Etheart
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There's been a recent spending spree on paintings by black artists highlighted with the sales of Jean-Michel Basquiat's "Flesh & Spirit" for $30.7 million and Kerry James Marshall's "Past Times", which was purchased by Diddy for $21.1 million. As art continues to be both a strong alternative investment option and increasingly popular for the black elite, can cryptocurrencies and Blockchain change the art landscape?
Why This Matters: Wealthy people all over the world continue to buy art as both showcases of their deep bank accounts and to diversify their investment portfolios. While cash is still king, cyptocurrencies are becoming an increasingly more prevalent way to make purchases and blockchain is becoming the trusted ledger of record.
As the black elite expands (think Diddy, Swizz Beatz, and Jay Z), what they’re putting their money into art collections they intend to pass on to their children. In order to stay ahead of the curve they will need to pay attention to the many art focused funds on the market and look to buy new pieces with cryptocurrencies. This may be a safer alternative for purchasing art because it ensures the transactions are tracked using blockchain technology. It will be a way to prove undisputed ownership over generations and also provide an opportunity to even purchase digital art.
Exactly how does this work? Cryptocurrency creates scarcity and blockchain technology generates an official record. So as someone buys physical or digital art, the pieces will have certain digital "authentic" copies and everything will be tracked via the blockchain system. It ensures anyone can access the receipts and inventory of art a person owns digitally. Read More
By Cheryl McGinnis
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I believe it is important to contemplate the recent news that African American artists are finally getting a foothold into the art market. There’s also been a lot of focus on how difficult black art dealers are hard to come by. One must ask themselves why and what needs to change by taking a trip down art history lane.
Why This Matters: The art market is a difficult one to understand, penetrate and to predict. So much of it is based on which artists are being exhibited not only in important galleries, but also university museums. At university and college museums is where typically where one finds scholarship. Students can visit the exhibits with their art history classes and on their own. They have professors who may have advised on a particular exhibit. Thus making the artist and their work live on through art history.
Some of my favorite American artists, the women of Gees Bend Alabama. These African American women created from a sheer need to provide warmth for their families, some of the best works of art America has seen. A new generation of both male and female African American artists are finding inspiration, roots, and a pathway to a future of black art.
So many people look at Gees Bend today and immediately compare the quilts to white male mid-century artists. As if to say “yes” they do matter because unbeknownst to these women, they were creating patterns like the educated, white male artists who ruled the mid-century art world.
I am truly grateful that Amelia Peck, on of the curators, puts it into perspective this way: “To say that they look like abstract paintings is an easy, though superficial, way to understand Gee's Bend quilts. The women making these quilts never saw the abstract paintings that their work supposedly created,” Peck said. Read More
By CultureBanx Team
CBx Vibe: “Twofifteen” Black Thought
The Baltimore Museum of Art is rebalancing its permanent collection by selling seven pieces where they’ve had a deep representation in their collection in order to build enough capital to purchase works by artists of color. The museum is trying to rebalance systematic underrepresentation of black artists in its collection. What does this mean for the strategy other museums have in developing their collections?
Why This Matters: The contemporary art market is waking up to the strength of African American artists posthumously or who are developing work now. The recent purchase of Kerry James Marshall’s “Past Times” for $21 million shifted the market and further highlighted the increased competitiveness of the market. Collections have not typically held these sorts of works and are facing the reality that the art world isn’t made up entirely of white male artists.
Traditionally, collections have been driven by a relatively small network of dealers and galleries. They may or may not have networks that give them access to black artists. That is pushing collections to expand their networks to get a better finger on the pulse of who’s next in the art world. To increase their effectiveness at this, museums may to asses their staffing to ensure they have people who have broad networks that include artists who have been historically excluded from museums’ collections. Read More
By CultureBanx Team
Prices are undeniably rising for black works of art and the Art Basel fair is no different. Art Basel can be an important opportunity to provide black artists who have been historically overlooked with European exposure that can have a lasting impact.
Why This Matters: The fair arrives on the heels of P. Diddy’s purchase of Kerry James Marshall’s 1997 painting “Past Times” at Sotheby’s last month for $21.1 million. This was a new auction record for a living African American artist. During Art Basel two paintings by Marshall sold for a combined price estimated at $10 million. Mark Bradford’s paintings from 2001 and 2017 sold for $3.85 million and $2.5 million, respectively.
We still have to ask the question what took so long and why was it so hard to get here? The market for work by African American artists “is at an inflection point globally right now—that’s a fact. And it’s not going away,” Tim Blum of Blum & Poe told ArtNet.
Beyond the convention center where the art fair took place, the city’s Kunstmuseum hosted solo exhibitions by two African American artists Sam Gilliam and Theaster Gates. Several dealers point to a growing number of wealthy African American collectors who are helping to set new price points. Read More
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In the super elite world of art galleries and dealers African Americans are still vying for a larger share of the market. As the first line of defense, black dealers know galleries are the gateway into the $63.7 billion art sector. Have black art dealers and galleries been overlooked by the mainstream operators in the space?
Why This Matters: Black dealers have remained almost entirely absent from the narrative of contemporary art. For artists to have their work sold by a dealer is the sole platform for them to make a living, so being shown at a gallery is a necessity. In many ways galleries are where the hierarchy of power in the art world begins and ends.
Dealers discover an artist’s work and promote it to both collectors and institutions. Once this occurs, typically the work rises in value when it enters a museum and ultimately leads to more gallery shows. Unfortunately for artists of color this broken cycle and lack of a commercial outlet has weighed on their success.
"Getting a foothold into a gallery business model, has traditionally been based on wealth and privilege, making it difficult for anyone without the necessary funding and connections to enter the business," said Cheryl McGinnis, PROW Art Space Curator.
Progress has been slow but it is coming, especially for black art being shown in museums. For black artists in particular, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) hired a consulting curator Derby English to broaden its collection in 2014. The Tate Modern brought on curator Zoe Whitley in 2013, who has helped to raise the profile of black art. Read More
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Many Western museums showcase their beautiful Benin Bronze art pieces, that once called modern day Nigeria home. The country has now come up with a new negotiating strategy to borrow the art rather than continue to request a full return. Is this strategy one that could help Nigeria settle other art disputes around the world?
Why This Matters: Let’s quickly go back and recap how the country first lost the art. British soldiers seized thousands of metal castings from the then separate Kingdom of Benin in 1897. The haul included thousands of metal plaques as well as ivory and wooden carvings.
All of these pieces are recognized treasures of African art. They were split across museums in Britain and mainland Europe and amongst other Western countries. London has resisted campaigns for the full return of Nigeria’s bronzes.
Godwin Obaseki, governor of Edo where Benin City is now located told Reuters he had been talking to European museum officials who have floated the idea of returning the objects on loan. “In some cases it could be a permanent loan and in some cases it [would] just be for temporary display. In other cases it could be a return of works,” Obaseki said. In preparation for the art’s possible return, the current king of Benin has already started making plans for a three story museum to show off the plaques. Read More
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Christie’s is hosting an auction of one of the largest collections of African art. The pieces come from the collection of the Durand-Dessert family who have gathered these works for the past 30 years. Will this sale serve as a turbo boost for the valuation of future African sculptures?
Why This Matters: Little is known about African art dating beyond the 20th Century. During the colonization of African kingdoms Western occupiers muted creative practices including the development of the sculptures in this auction. Anthropologists and art historians have gained greater understanding of the art from various parts of Africa. In turn this has increased appreciation for these pieces. The items in this auction are estimated to go for between $9 million and $14 million.
Famed Nigerian sculptor Yinka Shonibare wants to see African art get more respect in the West. “I wanted to raise the fact that Western art owes a hell of a lot to African aesthetics. Where would Picasso be without the encounter with African art,” said Shonibare about a recent collection he is curating at the Stephen Friedman Gallery in London.
Christie’s anticipates the auction will set off the market for African art, in large part due to the Nigerian pieces in the sale. “Never before has there been so much good Nigerian material in just one sale at Christie’s, and it’s really a market-making moment. We want to put these works on the map and give them the attention and the platform they deserve,” said Christie’s Head of African and Oceanic Art Bruno Claessens. Read More
Ben Enwonwu’s “Tutu” sold for a record $1.68M
The price for Njedika Akunyili Crosby’s art has increased 1,580% in one year
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Nigeria’s modern and contemporary artists are getting the attention they deserve abroad and at home. Works by artists such as Ben Enwonwu and Njideka Akunyili Crosby have set records at multiple auction houses this year. Where’s the next level for Nigerian artist in their quest for recognizance in the art world?
Why This Matters: Nigerian artists haven’t been top of mind in the conversation around modern and contemporary art until recently. Artists like Matisse and Damien Hirst dominate those conversations, but now it looks like Nigerians are taking their turn.
Njideka Akunyili Crosby has seen a meteoric rise in the value of her work. In the span of about a year, her record sale price has risen from $100,000 to $3.38 million. This has kicked off a competition between Sotheby’s (BID +0.79%) and Christie’s. An Akunyili Crosby piece sold at a Christie’s auction in 2017 for $3.1 million, which was a record for the artist at the time. Earlier this year, Sotheby’s improved on that record by selling her piece “Bush Babies” for $3.38 million.
Ben Enwonwu is etched in history as Nigeria’s most popular artist, but his work has not drawn the auction prices to match his stature. Part of the reason for this mismatch in pricing and stature could be Nigeria’s art market still finding its footing on the global stage. Enwonwu’s low prices may change after the recent sale of his most famous work “Tutu,” which is often compared to the Mona Lisa, for a record $1.68 million.
Nigeria’s art market will need a range of stakeholders investing in the space to reach the next level in prominence. Auction houses like Sotheby’s are conducting art valuations in the country. This increased attention international and local support could lead to us hearing more Nigerian artists names in the future. Read More
Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Flesh and Spirit” sold for more than 2,000 times its purchase price
Diddy purchased Kerry James Marshall’s “Past Times” for $21 million
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The contemporary art sale at Sotheby’s auction house turned up the heat surrounding black art. Three living black artists set auction records including Kerry James Marshall’s “Past Times” painting which sold for $21.1 million. How important are these milestones to help move black artists into the mainstream art spotlight?
Why This Matters: Pieces by black artists drew dozens of bidders and even celebrities like Swizz Beatz and Diddy got in on the action. One of the highest selling black art pieces was Jean-Michel Basquiat’s “Flesh and Spirit” which sold for $30.7 million, more than 2,000 times its purchase price from 35 years ago.
Swizz Beatz won a portrait by Lynette Yiadom-Boakye for $555,000, which was part of the Studio Museum group. Leave it to Diddy to go all out with a $21 million purchase of Marshall’s “Past Times” painting. This piece of art was acquired in 1997 for $25,000 by the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) in Illinois for the South Building of its McCormick Square campus. Originally the painting was purchased with public money raised through project-expansion bonds. The sales price should make a small dent in the state’s debt problem, even as S&P projects the state’s budget deficit will likely eclipse $7bn in its fiscal 2018 year.
Also, The Studio Museum of Harlem raised a hearty $16.4 million from the auction. “It’s a testament to the importance and centrality of these artists within the narrative of contemporary art,” said Thelma Golden the Studio Museum’s director to Bloomberg. It will use its proceeds from the auction to help renovate and expand the museum’s 125th Street home. Read More
We are at such an important moment in contemporary art history. Kerry James Marshall has fetched 20 odd million at auction. There are increasingly more solo and group exhibitions mounted for Black artists. What I find fascinating is that among Black artists, women artists are as respected and revered as their male counterpart. This is not true in any other area of contemporary art. Black artists are not only finally given a seat at the exhibition table, they are being invited to positions of power within the hallowed halls of museum board rooms. Amy Sherald, who famously painted The First Lady, Michelle Obama, has officially become a trustee on the board of the Baltimore Museum of Art. Sherald used Black cultural references from the community of Gees Bend, Alabama. The women of Gees Bend quilted with rags from slavery to the Civil War, a failed reconstruction, Jim Crow to Dr. King and onward. These quilts are the roots upon which so many African American artists are reclaiming history. Both Black men and women united together creating a new language of contemporary art.
For more art insights check out Cheryl McGinnis (Curator, Flatiron Prow Art Space, New York) Read More
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The Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority (MPEA) of Illinois plans to sell a painting by Chicago artist Kerry James Marshall to help out a municipal authority in the state. Marshall’s painting was acquired in 1997 for $25,000 and could sell at auction for $8 - $12 million. Is black art a new play for states to get out of debt?
Why This Matters: If Marshall’s “Past Times” painting sells for $12 million, it would represent an increase of nearly 48,000% over its initial purchase price. The painting was a centerpiece of Marshall’s acclaimed traveling retrospective. It was bought by the MPEA for the South Building of its McCormick Square campus, which was completed in 1996, according to Sotheby’s. Cynthia McCafferty, a spokeswoman for the authority told Bloomberg, they used public money raised through project-expansion bonds to buy the art.
Illinois is the fifth most populous U.S. state and is saddled with debt. Moody’s Investors Service and S&P Global Ratings rank Illinois one level above junk at BBB-, the worst rating of any state. S&P projected the state’s budget deficit was likely to eclipse $7bn in its fiscal 2018 year. While this may only make a small dent in the states debt problem, Illinois needs all the help it can get. Read More
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The thirst for black art is on the rise and Swann Galleries is the most recent beneficiary. At least 12 artists achieved new benchmarks when the gallery held its biannual African American Fine Art sale. Does the success of these art sales finally bring attention to the importance of black art contributions to an auction house’s bottom line?
Why This Matters: Swann Galleries introduced sales dedicated to black art back in 2007. They have increased the number of works by these artists since interest in African American art attracts a wider base of U.S. and international collectors. Also, a lot of black art purchasers are institutions pining to address deficits and widen their representation in the space.
The overall sales total from the auction was more than $4.5 million. This was a Swann record not just for sales in its African American Fine Art department, but for the entire auction house over the course of its more than 75-year history. A rare early painting by Elizabeth Catlett, “Head of a Woman (Woman),” sold for $209,000. “Tension on the High Seas” by Jacob Lawrence was among the most anticipated lots featured in the auction. The long lost panel sold for $413,000, four times the anticipated price. Read More
Chris Ofili’s “The Holy Virgin Mary" painting is getting the big city art treatment. It’s entering the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) as a gift from billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen. Is this acquisition of black art by a major museum more than a trend?
Why This Matters: In 2015, “The Holy Virgin Mary" fetched $4.6 million at Christie’s in London and it remains the auction record for Ofili. The painting stirred controversy at the Brooklyn Museum during the 1999 "Sensation" exhibit due to its depiction of a black Virgin Mary beside lumps of elephant dung. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani found the art so off-putting he sued the Brooklyn Museum to have it removed.
Now, MoMa has accepted the canvas originally created in 1996 during an acquisition curatorial committee meeting. “People look at our collection as a place that provides history of art in our time. And these artists and works are essential to art history, we belatedly realize," the museum’s chief curator of painting and sculpture Ann Temkin said to Bloomberg.
Ofili was joined by three other black artists whose works were acquired for the MoMA. The works include; "No Title (The Ugly American)," a painting by Herve Telemaque along with “Sweet Thang (Lynn Jenkins)," a painting by Barkley Hendricks. Lastly, a sculpture called “Leaning," created in 1980, by Maren Hassinger was amassed by the museum. Read More
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Wall Street titans are making a mad dash for black art. Billionaire hedge fund managers Steve Cohen and Kenneth Griffin both recently donated high profile pieces to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), an apparent coup for the museum. What will it take for black artists to secure the same sale prices of their contemporaries in the industry?
Why This Matters: Like Mike Jones said, “back then they didn’t want me, now I’m hot they all on me.” Within the last decade, black artists have increasingly become a focus of the art world. Since 2010, the MoMA has secured 430 pieces by black artists. Last year, a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for $110.5 million, the sixth highest price for a piece at auction.
Curators like Derby English, who the MoMA brought on as an adjunct curator in 2014, and Zoe Whitley, who has been at Tate Modern since 2013 have helped to raise the profile of black art. Yet, the underpinnings of the $45 billion art market are quite narrow and don’t appear conducive to broadening the number of black artists who can secure high-dollar prices for their works. Twenty auction houses account for 70% of the public art market and 30 art dealers control a third of gallery sales, according to Rachel Pownal, Maastricht University finance professor.
What’s Next: Auction house Sotheby’s has an Impressionist & Modern Art auction on tap for May 14, though it has not yet listed the catalog of pieces. Watch out for the number of black artists whose pieces make the catalog and what they ultimately sell for. Read More
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African American art is at a seminal moment in art history. We are seeing the gains of the Obama administration with regard to more museum and gallery exhibits by African American men and women. While at the same time, a reclaiming of history that has been sparked in no small part by the current administration.
Stephen Towns: Rumination and a Reckoning at the Baltimore Museum of Art is a must-see exhibit. Town reaches back into the history of quilt making and the incredible women of Gees Bend Alabama who created some of the most important pieces of American Art. "His quilting practice delves into the perspective of women and people of color and draws on that knowledge to interrogate the institution of slavery in American History,” said Cecilia Wichmann, Curator. This reclamation of history in this visual way is powerful and speaks to everyone who experiences it.
For more art insights check out Cheryl McGinnis (Curator, Flatiron Prow Art Space, New York) Read More