Black Art is the New Wave on Wall Street

  • The art market was last valued at $45 billion in 2017
  • The Museum of Modern Art has secured 430 pieces by black artists since 2010

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.

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