Black Dealers Are Missing From the Art World’s Hierarchy

  • Black dealers are largely absent from the narrative of contemporary art
  • In 2017 the global art market was valued at $63.7 billion

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.

Situational Awareness: Due to the lack of major black art dealers and galleries, African American artists have been marginalized in a way that is only recently being reversed. There have been major art auction records set by black artists in 2018.

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