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The Collecting of African American Art I: Introduction

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.