The Collecting of African American Art

The Collecting of African American Art series focuses on distinguished private collections of African American art in the United States.

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Maria Kanellopoulos, collection-manager and exhibition coordinator, Wedge Curatorial Projects; Kenneth Montague, collector, curator, and director, Wedge Curatorial Projects; and Trevor Schoonmaker, chief curator and Patsy R. and Raymond D. Nasher Curator of Contemporary Art, Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. Kenneth Montague is a Toronto-based art collector and the founder and director of Wedge Curatorial Projects. Created in 1997, Wedge evolved from a commercial gallery into a nonprofit organization, exhibiting photo-based work with a strong focus on exploring black identity and the African diaspora. Wedge has collaborated with local and international institutions to create original exhibitions, educational programming, publications, and film and music series that speak to youth about shaping their own identity. In 2011 Montague organized Becoming: Photographs from the Wedge Collection in collaboration with Trevor Schoonmaker at the Nasher Museum of Art at Duke University. In this conversation recorded on March 9, 2014, at the National Gallery of Art as part of the Collecting of African American Art series, Montague and Schoonmaker discuss the history and mission of their individual institutions and collaborations between them. Moderated by Maria Kanellopoulos, Wedge collection-manager and exhibition coordinator, the conversation also considers the future of acquisitions, exhibitions, and scholarship of work of the African diaspora.

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Ruth Fine, curator (1972–2012), National Gallery of Art, and Rodney M. Miller, collector. In this conversation recorded on February 9, 2014, as part of The Collecting of African American Art, a series at the National Gallery of Art, Ruth Fine and Rodney M. Miller discuss his collection in all of its aspects—from his early interest in art to the development of his diverse interactions with contemporary artists, curators, and dealers. Miller explains the important effect that art has in chronicling and providing a more complete view of society.

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Darryl Atwell, collector, and Jeffreen M. Hayes, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in African American Art, Birmingham Museum of Art. Darryl Atwell, a collector based in Washington, DC, has been acquiring works by artists of the African diaspora for the last eight years. His conversation with curator Jeffreen M. Hayes, recorded on November 18, 2012, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, provides an overview of Atwell's important collection. They also discussed the collecting of African American art by others and the rise of contemporary African American artists. Hayes is a scholar whose research interests are African American visual culture, contemporary representations of race, and art museums.

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Recorded on February 26, 2012, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, former National Basketball Association players Elliot Perry and Darrell Walker discuss their collections of African American art and art of the African diaspora with Professor Michael D. Harris. Perry and Walker began to collect art during their extensive travels for their professional sports careers, and both have amassed important holdings of modern and contemporary art that have been exhibited throughout the United States. Both have also dedicated themselves to educational and philanthropic causes to preserve and showcase African American culture. Professor Harris is an artist, curator, and scholar of contemporary African and African American art and has contributed to the exhibition catalogue Images of America: African American Voices: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Darrell Walker.

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Elliot Perry and Darrell Walker, collectors of African American art and art of the African diaspora and former players for the National Basketball Association, and Michael D. Harris, associate professor of art history and African American studies, Emory University. In this conversation recorded on February 26, 2012, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, former National Basketball Association players Elliot Perry and Darrell Walker discuss their collections of African American art and art of the African diaspora with Professor Michael D. Harris. Perry and Walker began to collect art during their extensive travels for their professional sports careers, and both have amassed important holdings of modern and contemporary art that have been exhibited throughout the United States. Both have also dedicated themselves to educational and philanthropic causes to preserve and showcase African American culture. Professor Harris is an artist, curator, and scholar of contemporary African and African American art and has contributed to the exhibition catalogue Images of America: African American Voices: Selections from the Collection of Mr. and Mrs. Darrell Walker.

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David C. Driskell, artist, collector, and emeritus professor of art history, University of Maryland at College Park, and Ruth Fine, consulting curator of special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art. Highly respected as an artist, art historian, curator, and teacher, David C. Driskell's life as a collector is less well known. In this event recorded on February 12, 2012, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, David C. Driskell and Ruth Fine discuss publicly for the first time the expansive range of his art acquisitions, which he started to collect during his years as an art student at Howard University in Washington, DC. Among the treasures in Driskell's collection are old master and modern European prints, antique rugs, African sculpture, and works by African American masters from the 19th century through the present.

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Harmon and Harriet Kelley, collectors, and Deborah Willis, professor, Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. Since 1987 Harmon and Harriet Kelley have amassed an art collection that represents a kaleidoscopic view of African American life and cultural history from the 19th to 21st centuries. In this conversation recorded on February 22, 2009, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, Deborah Willis speaks with the Kelleys about their passion and determination to build a collection that advances and preserves the legacy of African American art.

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Ruth Fine, curator of special projects in modern art, National Gallery of Art, and Juliette Bethea, collector. In this event recorded on February 15, 2009, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, Ruth Fine speaks with Washington, DC-based collector Juliette Bethea about her life–long passion for learning and what inspired her to begin acquiring art nearly 40 years ago. Bethea discusses how moving to Washington in 1967 after years of traveling abroad marked a turning point in her engagement with the arts. Through the strong community of artists connected to the Howard University community, Bethea developed a connection with the local art scene.

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Jacqueline Francis, independent scholar. In this presentation recorded on February 8, 2009, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, Jacqueline Francis traces the origins of collecting African-American art in the United States and the role of American academic institutions, galleries, and specialized museums in supporting these artists. Francis focuses on six distinguished private collections: Barnett-Aden; Camille O. and William H. Cosby Jr.; Walter O. Evans; David C. Driskell; Grant Hill; and Harmon and Harriet Kelley. She also provides an overview of institutional

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Paul R. Jones, collector, and Amalia K. Amaki, professor of art history, University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. For the third program in the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, recorded on February 24, 2008, Paul R. Jones discusses collecting with Amalia K. Amaki, editor and contributing author of A Century of African American Art: The Paul R. Jones Collection, which features his acquisition of works by nearly 70 artists, most of which he has given to the University of Delaware. Jones discusses his dedication to supporting emerging African-American artists, including his efforts to see that they are better represented in public collections. Jones also reveals how he began collecting art while he was pursuing a career in public service, including working in civil rights, housing and urban development, and the Peace Corps.

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Andrea Barnwell Brownlee, director of Spelman College Museum of Fine Art, and Walter O. Evans, collector. In this conversation recorded on February 17, 2008, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, retired surgeon Walter O. Evans discusses his extraordinary collection with Andrea Barnwell Brownlee. Brownlee was the primary author of The Walter O. Evans Collection of African American Art, a catalogue that accompanied an international exhibition of mid-19th- to late-20th-century works from Evans' holdings. Their conversation explores how Evans began acquiring African American art, his friendships with artists and writers, and his future plans for the collection.

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Alvia J. Wardlaw, associate professor, Texas Southern University and curator of modern and contemporary art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston. For the inaugural lecture of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, recorded on February 10, 2008, Alvia J. Wardlaw provides an overview of the substantial history of collecting African American art. She regards the preservation of objects of cultural importance within the African American community as a holistic endeavor. Collecting was not merely about acquiring items for private holdings but also establishing a connection between African Americans and their African past, enabling families and communities to pass on traditions. Wardlaw relates the role of collectibles, including such cherished items as family photographs and Bibles, to the interest in collecting African American artworks, which arose in the 19th century. She also examines this phenomenon within the context of individual artistic careers, intellectual movements, and trends in the patronage of African American art.

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Darryl Atwell, a collector based in Washington, DC, has been acquiring works by artists of the African diaspora for the last eight years. His conversation with Jeffreen M. Hayes, Andrew W. Mellon Curatorial Fellow in African American Art, Birmingham Museum of Art, recorded on November 18, 2012, as part of the National Gallery of Art lecture series The Collecting of African American Art, provides an overview of Atwell’s important collection. They also discussed the collecting of African American art in general and the rise of contemporary African American artists. Hayes is a scholar whose research interests are African American visual culture, contemporary representations of race, and art museums.