Art Basel Awakens to African American Art

By CultureBanx Team

  • Kunstmuseum in Basel hosted solo exhibitions by 2 African American artists
  • Art Basel can provide overlooked black artists with European exposure

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.

Situational Awareness: The art market is as much a story of power as it’s one of creativity. While this moment represents the most concentrated international recognition of African American artists, it is hardly the first time. There is more change still to come as works by black artists are being re-evaluated. This process hasn’t been going on that long compared to the amount of time they have been overlooked.

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